As you all know, our main focus is on upcycling – globally and locally. However, we also recycle on a smaller scale, to help tackle the blight of textile waste in every way possible. Many people don’t know the difference between upcycling and recycling. Upcycling is a process which creates a product of higher value than the original, and recycling is when you use waste as material to manufacture a new product. The latter is what we will be focusing on in this blog post.
According to the European Commission’s report “Towards an EU Product Policy Framework contributing to the Circular Economy”, recycled materials only account for around 1% of all materials used in textile production. It’s a surprisingly small number, given that we would be able to do much more. Textile waste has become one of the most complex types of waste in the welfare society. But why?
The reason lies within the materials. This 1% is, in large part, due to the fact that many designers don’t take into account the principles of circularity. Most of the clothes we all wear are made out of mixed materials that are difficult or even impossible to recycle. But how does one tackle this issue? Consumption in the welfare society is endless and post-consumer waste has become a massive problem. Within the European Union, we are only able to collect 25% of used clothing, and only 1% of that gets recycled. The rest is burned or sent to landfill. In Estonia, for example, the recycling percentage is 0%. That is shocking and devastating.
The EU has issued a directive stating that by 2025, 100% of textile waste must be collected separately. Even if we can collect all of the textile waste, then what should we do after that? The global market has dried up. Back in the day, Europe used to send its textile waste to developing countries, however, those countries will no longer accept it. That means that the only thing left to do is deal with our waste locally. Collect, sort, clean and recycle.
The 2018 Waste Framework Directive announced an obligation for the separate collection of textiles by 2025.
Reet Aus have been using various methods of upcycling and recycling for years. A good example is the knitwear that is made from recycled post-consumer denim. The discarded denim is collected and sorted in Europe and spun into a new yarn. The most recent yarn we have used is from Italy by a company called Pinori Filati, who are one of the leaders in producing recycled yarns.
Initially the denim is collected and sorted by colour, and the metal parts such as buttons, zippers and hinges are separated. Then the denim is cut into pieces and broken down into fibre. Since the fibres are very short after the cutting process, the new yarns are not spun only from recycled materials. The short fibres are spun together with some synthetic fibre to give it strength and durability. Our knitted dresses are made from a recycled yarn made of 92% recycled denim, 4% polyester and 4% polyamide. They are breathable and comfy, perfect for a lunch date or a dressy party.