by Beatriz Domenech


26th February 2021

Global textile fibre production has doubled in the last 20 years, reaching an all-time high of 111 million tonnes in 2019, with continued growth forecast until 2030. This increase, coupled with current consumption patterns generates huge amounts of waste.


The recycling rate for textile waste is however, very low with only 13% recycled in some way after use. Most of this is transformed into lower value product such as rags, insulation or filler material and less than 1% is recycled into new fibre.

This is mainly due to the fact that textile waste is not separated from other waste. More than 85% of textile products thrown away by consumers ends up in landfills or is incinerated.

Although there are textile recycling banks in public places, placed by social organisations or recovery and revalorisation specialists, the reality is that every city manages textile collection at its own discretion.

European Directive EU 2018/851

In view of the above, the new European Directive ((EU) 2018/851) amending Directive 2008/98/EC on waste is of particular importance.

The new Directive obliges Member States to begin separate collection of textile waste by 1 January 2025, and to set targets for the preparation for re-use and recycling of textile waste. This will have an impact on the entire textile value chain as companies will need to start designing and preparing their products to contain a certain percentage of recycled material and to allow for recycling.

These measures will come into force in Spain through the new Waste Law, which is currently being drafted. This law foresees the establishment of an extended producer responsibility scheme for the textile sector. In addition, the destruction of unsold textile surplus will be prohibited.

Although the European directive does not set targets, the new Spanish Waste Law establishes that by 2025 at least 55% of household waste, including textiles, should be prepared for reuse or destined for recycling. This percentage is set to rise to 60% in 2030 and 65% in 2035.

The Directive specifically states that the re-use of products and the establishment of systems promoting repair and re-use activities shall be encouraged, particularly with regard to textiles.


Challenges for the textile sector

The sector faces significant challenges and barriers to ensure the recycling of textile waste. One of the most pressing of these is the revaluation of fibre blends in an economical and environmentally sustainable way. Another fundamental component is the separation and sorting processes that are generally carried out manually, adding to costs and creating a recycling bottleneck.

Key to enable the repair, reuse and recycling of textile would be the design of mono-material products or, where appropriate, products that can be disassembled and separated into components for recycling. This way of incorporating environmental criteria from the initial design of the product is known as Ecodesign.

For further information, please contact Ana Rodes, Head of the Circular Economy and Sustainability Technical Unit at AITEX by email arodes@aitex.es or visit our website www.aitex.es/sostenibilidad.

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