Fashion recycling not coming up to par, say experts | Vogue Switzerland


Around “93 per cent of all recycled textiles today come from plastic bottles, not from old clothes,” said Urska Trunk of campaign group Changing Markets. And while a plastic bottle can be recycled five or six times, a T-shirt in recycled polyester “can never be recycled again,” said Trunk.

Almost all recycled polyester is made from PET from plastic bottles, according to the non-profit Textile Exchange.

Recycling polyester is another dead end, according to Lauriane Veillard, of the Zero Waste Europe network. It is often impure and mixed with other materials like elastane or Lycra, which “prevents any recycling”, she insisted.

“Recycling is a myth for clothing”, Greenpeace’s consumer expert Panhuber insisted. Others, however, are turning towards new vegetable fibres, with German brand Hugo Boss using Pinatex made from pineapple leaves for some of its sneakers.

Experts warn that we could be falling into another trap. Thomas Ebele of the SloWeAre label questioned the way these non-woven fibres are held together “in the majority of cases” with thermoplastic polyester or PLA.

It means that while the clothing can be “sometimes broken down” it is not recyclable, he said. “Biodegradable does not mean compostable,” he warned, saying that some of these fibres have to be broken down industrially.


Jose Reber

Jose Reber is a professional writer based in Wisconsin. He guides editorial teams consisting of writers across the US to help them become more skilled and diverse writers. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife and children.

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