A textile recycling program is being expanded to boost the collection of polyester-based fabric waste and increase the production of reusable materials in the textile industry.
The program from Unifi called Textile Takeback is increasing the number of products and their uses it processes as well as its footprint worldwide. The program was initially piloted in 2011 and is designed to collect and recycle polyester-based fabric waste, including pre-and post-consumer fabrics and convert it into a recycled performance fiber.
Unifi says the discarded textile is transformed into a recycled resin through a material conversion process. The resin is then made into the performance fiber called Repreve or it can be blended with recycled bottle material to attain other material specifications.
According to the EPA, more than 11 million tons of textile waste were put in United States landfills in 2018 and takes up about 5% of landfill space. The recycling rate for all textiles was nearly 15% that year, the EPA says.
Nearly 95% of used clothing is recyclable, according to Smart Materials and Recycled Textiles. Of that, 45% are reused as apparel and 20% are processed into fiber to be manufactured into new materials and products, the organization says.
Recycling and using sustainable materials are seeing growth in the textile and apparel industry. The Textile Exchange shows for the first time half of the participants in the Material Change Insights report are using preferred materials, which are defined as having beneficial sustainability impacts compared with conventional uses.
The American Circular Textiles group also has been formed this year with the goal to develop policies to improve domestic textile recovery. Apparel brands Patagonia, Puma, ON, and Salomon have also partnered with Carbios to develop processes to make their products more recyclable.
Through the years Unifi says it has transformed more than 35 billion plastic bottles into recycled fiber for apparel, footwear, home goods, and other consumer products. More than 140 brands use Repreve, including Guess, Quicksilver, and Toms.