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Interview with Texaid: collection, sorting and recycling of textile waste

Globally, the fashion industry is responsible for producing around 40 million tonnes of textile waste each year, most of which is landfilled or incinerated.

In order to reduce the amount of waste disposed of in landfills, it is necessary to direct textile waste towards circular economy practices suited to its characteristics and properties.

To do this, it is essential to understand what criteria define a fiber's suitability for recycling and how the recycling process itself is structured.

We talked about it with Martin Böschen, CEO of Texaid, one of the leading organizations in Europe for the collection, sorting and recycling of used textile waste.

The importance of the collection and sorting phases of textile waste in the recycling process


Cikis: Texaid is one of the leading organizations in Europe for the collection, sorting and recycling of used clothing and fashion accessories. Let's start with the collection phase. How is the collection of used clothing organised?

M: The collection of used clothing and footwear takes place in different ways.

Texaid collects more than 280 million items (80,000 tons) annually through municipal bins and in-store and online collection in partnership with brands and retail partners.

Once collected, the garments arrive in Texaid to be processed.

Online pickup is offered through Texaid's Packmee program, which allows individuals to send their worn garments directly to a Texaid facility for processing.


Cikis: How can you minimize the environmental impact of the garment collection and shipping phase to sorting centers?

M: Texaid has worked hard to optimize the collection stage to reduce the environmental impact.

To support the emptying of municipal bins, a computerized logistics system is used which allows for more efficient routes to be followed, avoiding unnecessary CO2 emissions.


Cikis: At the sorting phase, the economic and ecological value of used clothing is decided. How do you rate the quality of the clothing? What characteristics of the garment should be evaluated to determine whether to direct it to new uses or to recycling processes?

M: Texaid has a highly qualified selection staff that searches up to 300 criteria to determine the most sustainable end-of-life management for the garment.

This mainly includes product types, materials, condition, style and season.

Good quality textile products are directed towards second hand markets, while fabrics and garments that cannot be reused are recycled.


Cikis: Texaid deals with the recycling of work uniforms. These types of garments are complex to recycle due to their many applications. How can work uniforms be recycled and how important is the sorting stage to improve the quality of the recycled product?

M: Uniforms and workwear can be complex products to recycle. This means that the sorting and preparation process is critical to ensure the best management of these fabrics.

First, company logos and labels are removed to prevent misuse of work uniforms. Next, the sorting stage is very important, as workwear can be made from more complex fabrics.

Careful sorting is essential to ensure that these garments are sent to the best possible form of recycling or downcycling.

The recycling of fabrics into new fibres: challenges and prospects


Cikis: Garments that cannot be sent to the second-hand market are further evaluated for the next recycling process. What is the difference between downcycling and recycling?

M: We see that there can be confusion about the definitions of downcycling and recycling for textiles.

What was once considered recycling is now recognized as downcycling. Downcycling is what the industry has been doing for years and involves processes such as cutting and shredding, which allow textile waste to be transformed into new products useful for other industries.

In downcycling, for example, textile waste is turned into insulation material, industrial cleaning cloths and more.

The goal for the future is to create “textile-to-textile” recycling. These are more recent processes that allow textile waste to be reinserted into the production process of new textile products. Such processes are becoming scalable.

In this regard, we are planning a new digitized and automated Texaid sorting facility to enable scale sorting for textile-to-textile recycling.


Cikis: Since the textile-to-textile recycling process is essential to address the problem of the excessive number of textile waste disposed of in landfills or incinerated, what are the ideal characteristics of the fibers of a garment to be able to achieve a closed textile recycling loop?

M: Textile-to-textile recycling is easier in the case of mono-material fabrics, minimal finishes that require little pre-processing, multi-layered garments designed to be disassembled and garments that have fewer finishes.

This allows for more efficient sorting and preparation for recycling of raw materials, as well as cleaner production.

Certainly, textile-to-textile recycling involves several obstacles. For example, wear can cause fibers to lose length, limiting the recycling process.

Chemical recycling is a promising technology, as it can solve the issues related to the length and possible contamination of the fibers, since it allows to generate a fiber of comparable quality to virgin raw materials.


Cikis: Textile-to-textile recycling represents a key solution to improve the level of sustainability in the fashion industry. What challenges does the fashion industry face in increasing both downcycling and closed-loop recycling of textile waste, considering the current very low data (data from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation states that 12% of waste is directed towards downcycling and 1% towards textile-to-textile recycling)?

M: One of the main challenges for the fashion industry is the lack of an adequate infrastructure to sort and pre-process textile waste once the mandatory collection in the EU has started.

Through Euratex's ReHubs initiative, TEXAID is leading the "Turning waste into raw materials" project to fill this infrastructure gap.

In addition, Texaid is working on the construction of a semi-automatic sorting plant and a pre-treatment plant for post-consumer textile waste by the end of 2024.

Another challenge is the lack of recycling solutions at scale that can handle different varieties of fabric compositions, as the current parameters are very specific.



The collection and sorting phases are essential to be able to evaluate the quality and characteristics of textile waste and to identify the most appropriate management method for their end of life based on the properties of the fibers.

However, the recycling process can be complicated by factors such as contamination and poor length of textile fibers. According to Martin Böschen, chemical recycling represents a solution that can successfully address these problems, ensuring a secondary raw material of comparable quality to virgin raw materials.

Finally, to facilitate textile-to-textile recycling, the lack of infrastructure capable of sorting and pre-processing textile waste needs to be addressed, with the aim of increasing the scalability of closed-loop textile waste recycling solutions.


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Francesca Poratelli
To analyse your sustainability level

After a work experience in Yamamay, she decided to specialize in the field of sustainability. She has dealt with sustainability assessments for companies ranging from outdoor clothing to textile merchandising.

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