India is one of the world's largest textile regions in terms of raw materials and skilled labor. At the same time, the textile industry is one of the largest contributors to the Indian economy. It is also one of the largest cotton producers in India. Globally, 25% of cotton production takes place in India.
As in the whole world, there is a significant amount of waste generation in India during textile production and consumption, but unfortunately, although India is one of the world leaders in mechanical recycling, it has not yet been able to create a circular approach for textile waste.
The increasing circularity trend in the textile industry on a global scale has also manifested itself in India. India has a unique opportunity to leverage existing infrastructure and resources to become a circular sourcing region.
Over the years, the recycling industry in India has established a strong foothold in mechanical recycling through manual separation, combining certain colors and fibers to achieve the desired quality, despite the lack of technology. On this occasion, they were able to derive economic value even from non-recyclable waste. Every year, 8.5% of global textile waste accumulates in India and 59% of this waste is recycled to the industry through reuse and recycling, but only a fraction of it returns to the global supply chain in terms of quality. Of the remaining waste, 19% is recycled, 5% is incinerated and 17% is disposed of.
As India is the world's mechanical recycling leader, 34% of total waste is directly reused or repaired into new products, while 25% is recycled as yarn, but recycled materials are delivered to domestic markets and not to the global supply chain.
Until now, although India has a good textile waste value chain across the country, it has not had a circular value chain due to reasons such as excessive cost competition, limited infrastructure to process certain types of waste and lack of traceability system. developed a waste value hierarchy framework to understand its current use and identify areas where it could be valued. With this framework, it was classified which material or waste type could be evaluated for which purpose (reuse, repair, high grade recycling, downcycle, incineration and disposal).
Through this framework, India aims to develop a circular economy to bring textile waste back into the global supply chain by identifying waste characteristics.
The waste value hierarchy given in the image below is a starting point for the textile industry to understand and increase the assessment of the various types of waste available. The waste value hierarchy created provides a strong basis for moving forward with cooperation to provide the necessary investments and infrastructure to realize textile circularity in India. With this hierarchy in mind, India is making further strides to create a circular economy that efficiently manages waste to its full potential.