Can fiber-to-fiber recycling create a new and sustainable circular economy in Europe?
Textile consumption in Europe is increasing day by day, and the amount of waste resulting from consumption has become a global problem. Today, Europe produces more than 15 kilograms of textile waste per capita, and the largest source of this textile waste is clothing and home textiles. Moreover, this waste accounts for about 85 percent of the total waste.
Looking at the statistics, Europe produces between 7 and 7.5 million tons of textile waste annually, of which only 30 percent is collected. Incineration and landfills are still among the first options considered for waste disposal. Less than 1 percent of textile waste is recycled fiber-to-fiber.
A recent report states that "fiber-to-fiber recycling can help solve Europe's waste problem by turning waste into value" Analysis suggests that fiber-to-fiber recycling could reach between 18 and 26 percent of gross textile waste by 2030. To achieve this, we need to create the necessary infrastructure today and integrate it into the collection, separation and recycling system.
A Belgian textile manufacturer aims to solve Europe's textile waste problem by turning waste into a resource and bringing together key European and global players to support closed-loop business models. When fully implemented, the initiative aims to recycle 2.5 million tons of textile waste from fiber to fiber by 2030. As such, this initiative will set the roadmap for European textile recycling, organize collaboration and kick-start potential projects.
Considering the population growth, the amount of textile waste is expected to increase to 8.5 to 9 million tons by 2030. With the implementation of the EU regulation on separate collection of textile waste, the collection rate of household waste could increase to 100 million tons by 2025, and this figure could reach 50 percent by 2030. This increase will require about 150 to 250 new facilities in Europe to build a new circular value chain, which will require additional capacity.
In particular, the report identifies "mechanical recycling technologies" as the most CO2-friendly, with a potential for a 60 to 90 percent reduction in fiber types spun through mechanical recycling.