Only 1% of the textile is recycled into new clothes in Europe. Since many fashion giants like Asos, H&M, or Boohoo use a lot of synthetic materials, they cannot fully ensure that their collections will be recycled. For this reason, smaller ethical brands can further the eco-conscious consumption of fashion and reduce the environmental impact.
September 12, 2022. One European produces over 15 kg of textile waste, and just 1% of it is recycled and made into new clothes. The EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles is already taking measures to reduce the amount of textiles thrown into landfills by proposing the requirement to include more recycled textiles in clothing designs, controlling greenwashing, and enforcing clothing producer responsibility toward consumers.
Ethical businesses are also tackling the clothing recycling issue by returning their collections to the manufacturing chain and educating their consumers about eco-friendly fashion practices.
A sustainable sleepwear luxury brand GRETES, which uses Naia™ cellulosic fiber made of sustainably sourced eucalyptus and pine pulp, has just made its collection recyclable as another move toward a more eco-friendly fashion consumption. But reducing the waste and environmental impact in luxury fashion comes with a certain set of challenges, Grėtė Švėgždaitė, a new generation designer and the founder of the brand, said.
Why not all fashion collections are recycled
Many fashion giants like Boohoo, Forever 21, Asos, or H&M use a lot of synthetic materials in their collections that release billions of polluting microfibers to the environment. Since it is costly to fully eliminate polyester and other synthetic textiles from their collections, it is more challenging for them to make their products recyclable.
“Natural textiles made of silk, cotton, and linen are much easier to recycle than polyester, which, unfortunately, is used by many fashion brands because it is cheap and durable. Although some big brands attempt to minimize waste by using polyester made of recycled plastic, this kind of fabric is ultimately the end product and cannot be recycled again, this way ending the circle of textile recycling,” the designer commented.
However, this means that to qualify for full recycling and conversion into another product, a clothing item must be 100% made of a natural material.
“Very few recycling factories accept clothes made from several different fabrics, for instance, 95% cotton and 5% elastane. In such cases, the cotton is recycled, and elastane is burned, which, unfortunately, still leaves an environmental impact,” she added.
That said, sourcing natural textiles is not always friendly to the environment. For instance, one kilogram of silk requires boiling 6,600 silkworms alive, while it takes up to 20K liters of water to grow one kilogram of cotton. Therefore, recycling plant-based materials that are already sustainably produced further minimizes the detrimental footprint of fashion.
Recycling sleepwear into yarn
GRETES is planning to turn recycled sleepwear into yarn which might be used by other manufacturers, this way returning the fabric back to the manufacturing chain and reducing the strain on landfills.
“The recycling option gives us the chance to minimize the production waste by reusing material scraps or trial models left after producing the collection. Also, instead of throwing worn sleepwear away, consumers are urged to send it back for recycling, this way making them allies in our eco-friendly fashion journey,” Ms. Švėgždaitė said.
GRETES is also collaborating with a German company I:CO to recycle sleep and loungewear. The clothing items that are still in good condition will be sent to the second-hand market, while those that are no longer fit for wearing will be recycled into yarn.
GRETES, founded by Grėtė Švėgždaitė in Lithuania, is a boutique-style international brand. It focuses on creating handmade, fashionable, and high-quality sleepwear and loungewear, using sustainable NAIA™ materials for a reasonable price. Dedicated to everyone’s quiet elegance, the brand represents a continuous journey of looking for a balance between fashion, nature, and oneself.