How the clothes mountains of COVID-19 affect the Recycling Industry?

Textile recycling does not only benefit the fashion industry to prevent the growing pile of the waste created annually but ultimately affects the environment and the people in a positive way. The textile recycling industry is currently facing a crisis with the growing mountains of clothes piled in warehouses, particularly in times of COVID-19. 

The textile recycling industry 

‘Textile Recycling’ is the process of recycling old clothing or other textiles and its recovery for reuse. 

The growth of the textile recycling industry is due to the growth of the textile industry itself, which has evolved into a USD 961.5 billion industry globally, comprising clothing as well as material from furniture and mattresses, as well as home furnishings. Additionally, apparel companies increasingly invest in circular fashion models, which implement the reuse, recycling or upcycling of textiles. 

The recycling of textiles can happen at different stages of the life of an item; Post-consumer, Pre-consumer and Post-industrial. Currently, only 1% of second-hand textiles get recycled into new clothes. However, there is high hope that the recycling trend will develop further in the future. 

How is the textile recycling industry affected by COVID-19?  

In order to recycle textiles or garments, necessary steps are happening beforehand, which involve the donation, collection, sorting and processing of textiles, and the subsequent transportation to end-users of used garments. These steps are not  only the key to ensure textile recycling will happen but are connected to a lot of work and costs. The supply chain for textile recycling relies on a steady movement and on time delivery. 

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, prior planning has become almost impossible. Companies are forced to proceed with extreme caution and flexible adaptations to system processes and economical agreements on an almost hourly basis. This leaves recycling companies, exporters and customers in nations from Africa and Eastern Europe all the way to Latin America struggling.  

The effects of COVID-19  are visible starting in the second-hand industry, which plays an important role in reselling used garments to recycling companies or traders. In times of the COVID-19 pandemic, many thrift shops or clothing containers have been flooded with more clothes than they can sell, building up to a mountain of garments that fill sorting warehouses. This is mainly due to the fact that more people have time at home, thus more time to sort out.

Meanwhile, textile recycling companies and exports have been struggling due to measures restricting movement to move their stock to markets abroad, resulting in cutting prices to shift their stocks somehow.

This does not only slow the markets abroad,  where buyers are more dependent on longer credit periods before pay, changing from 15 days to up to 25-60 days, but also recycling companies that used to be able to charge overseas buyers around £570 pounds per tonne now only charge £400/tonne. 

This is not feasible for many companies that are left  with the fear of bankruptcy. The only options left for many recycling companies is to remove clothing banks or clothing recycling containers from the streets, to reduce the number of times it has to be emptied, and to lay off workers. 

But what does this mean for the recycling of our textiles? 

Over 100 billion garments are produced worldwide every year, and the pace of which people are consuming nowadays has grown rapidly. An average person buys 60% more items of clothing every year and keeps them for about half as long as used to 15 years ago, generating a vast amount of waste.

The recycling of these unused garments is an important contributor to reduce the number of clothes that go to landfills or incinerators, and end up as a toxic soup in landfills in other parts of the world. Clothing waste in landfills can take hundreds of years to decompose of, creating a toxic substance that later allows greenhouse gases and chemicals to get into surrounding air and soil.

How does Kleiderly contribute? 

Kleiderly has developed a unique technology that is able to recycle textiles and therefore helping to reduce the number of garments that end up in landfills.  

For us, at Kleiderly it is utmost important to recycle, reuse and repurpose the resources that already exist,  to ensure a circular economy. 



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