The textile industry in India, after agriculture, is the only industry to generate massive employment for skilled and unskilled textile labourers. The textile industry has witnessed explosive bursts of growth over the years, evolving into a whopping $1 trillion global industry. The textile recycling industry comprises natural linen fabric, regular clothing along with draperies, sofa upholstery fabric, luxury furniture fabric, cleaning materials etc. Let us delve into the nuances of textile recycling and attempt to understand how it works.

What is Textile Recycling?
Textile recycling is the process of recovering old or used clothing, along with other textiles, for reuse and material recovery. The requisite steps in the textile recycling process include the donation, sorting, and processing of textiles, and subsequent transportation to end users of used garments, rags, and other recovered materials. While some textiles can be remodelled into various types of clothing material, damaged textiles are sorted out to make miscellaneous items, such as industrial wiping cloths.

The Urgent Need to Recycle Textiles

“Films go into vaults, art into museums, and music into halls of fame. Most fashion is worn for a few seasons and off-loaded into the recycling bin or, worse, some landfill.”
- Robin Givhan

The importance of recycling textile is being acknowledged rapidly. According to statistical data, over 80 billion garments are globally produced on an annual basis. In 2010, about 5% of the municipal waste stream comprised of textile waste, which amounted to 13.1 million tonnes. Meanwhile, the recovery rate for textiles is a mere 15%. Keeping these odds in mind, textile recycling emerges as a tough challenge, as we aim to move closer towards a zero landfill society.

Once they become a part of landfills, natural fabrics can take over a hundred years to decompose. They might also release gases like methane and CO2 back into the atmosphere. Synthetic textiles are designed in a way that does not allow for the decomposition process to take place, leading to the release of toxic substances inside the landfill, into the groundwater and surrounding soil. Meanwhile, textile recycling offers a range of environmental benefits:

* Reduces the need for landfill space
* Decreases energy and water consumption
* Reduces pollution
* Diminishes the demand for dyes

Textile Sources for Recycling
Textiles for recycling are generated from two primary sources, namely, post-consumer and pre-consumer. Post-consumer sources include garments, vehicle upholstery fabrics, and household items, whereas, pre-consumer sources entail scrap created as a by-product of yarn and fabric manufacture. It also includes post-industrial scrap textiles from other industries. It is interesting to note that the donation of old garments is supported by non-profit and corporate programs alike.

The Recycling Process
There is a significant difference between natural and synthetic fabrics. Natural textiles undergo the following process:

1. The incoming wearable material is sorted by type of material and colour. Colour sorting results in a fabric that does not need to be re-dyed, hence saving energy and avoiding pollutants.

2. Then on, textiles are pulled into fibres or shredded, while other fibres are introduced into the yarn. Depending on the end use of the yarn, other fibres might be incorporated.

3. The yarn is then cleaned and mixed with the help of a carding process. Carding is a mechanical process that disentangles, cleans, and intermixes fibres to produce a seamless web suitable for subsequent processing.

4. Then, the yarn is re-spun and made ready for subsequent use in weaving and knitting. However, some fibres are compressed for textile filling, such as in mattresses.

In the case of polyester-based textiles, garments are shredded and processed into granules, while being processed into polyester chips. These are subsequently melted and used to create new fibres for usage in polyester fabrics.

With time, our society is becoming more aware of the hazards associated with sending old textiles to landfills. Resultantly, the demand and supply of recycled textile are growing rapidly, leading to a proliferation of the textile recycling industry. This is a positive step towards attaining a greener earth and a safer environment.

Author's Bio: 

I love reading news and latest technology things. I also like writing blogs related to general health issues and lifestyle changes. I admire what can make this world more green and loving.