<< back to Insights

Fashion – Enter Wales: Novelle Yarn Desk Top Research FIBRETRACE® #2


As we progress into the third week of the four month Novelle Yarn recycling feasibility study with SMARTCryum the team, in London and Wales, have been undertaking desk top research into fibres, recycling and new technologies. This week Eddie Bebb, Commercial Manager at Fashion-Enter in Wales has been reviewing FIBRETRACE®…

Founded in 2018 by a group of likeminded leaders in the global textile industry, FIBRETRACE® are focused on fronting a new era of transparency, honesty and accountability. The company’s mission is to ensure every member of the textile supply chain has the ability to take direct accountability to reduce the environmental impact of the global industry. In developing FIBRETRACE® the team has focused on overcoming the hurdles the global industry is faced with. To provide true custody of supply, real-time verification of a product as it moves through the global supply chain, primary impact data on emissions at farm, and verification of fibre content and quantity.

The FIBRETRACE® global team works alongside raw fibre producers, spinners, weavers manufacturers and brands to connect and unite the supply chain – from seed to store. Through transparency, brands and suppliers will be empowered to make better decisions for the environment, their customers and the bottom line.
Every fibre tells a story®.

Why we can’t just recycle our old clothes? Less than 1% of all garments are recycled to a high quality. Aside from that small 1 percent, the rest of our old clothes are generally either downcycled, incinerated or sent directly to landfills. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, this translates into a loss of USD 100 billion worth of material annually! That shirt bought from H&M made of recycled polyester? That’s a product of recycled plastic bottles – not old textiles.

So what is stopping us from recycling our old clothing more effectively?

The Problem: The fashion industry accounts for an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste globally – the equivalent of a rubbish truck full of clothes ending up in a landfill every second. By 2030 this number is expected to rise to 134 million tonnes of textiles a year. We are producing more than we can consume!

Existing recycling systems: Most sorting processes for post-consumer recycling is done by a manual process (i.e. by hand), meaning it is time, labour and cost intensive. Clothes must be first disassembled, removing trims, buttons and zips before taking the garments apart. Blended materials can also pose a problem. A lot of fast fashion and modern clothing will often be a blend of materials like cotton and polyester, which are difficult to separate manually. To achieve this at scale in an economical way, new technologies, innovations and processes are needed. There are two main recycling processes: mechanical and chemical.

Mechanical recycling: Refers to the process of shredding a garment into small pieces before mixing it with virgin material to be turned back into clothing. As the mechanical recycling process requires the fibre to be shortened, this dramatically reduces their performance, durability and quality. To ensure the recycled material is suitable to make new garments, it must be mixed with a virgin (new) material to strengthen the recycled fibre.

Chemical recycling: refers to the process of using chemical solvents to break down old garments into virgin-quality fibres. Chemical recycling is most effective in separating blended fabrics whilst maintaining the same or even a stronger level of fibre integrity. However, this can be more costly compared to mechanical recycling.

Designing for a circular economy Some of these current challenges may be mitigated by applying circular design (i.e. designing for recyclability strategies). Designing for cyclability can reduce the number of unrecyclable fibres and fabric blends used in the value chain, and better align the fibre composition of garments with the specifications required for available recycling technologies.

More desktop research on this sustainable project with Potter Group and SMARTCymru to follow soon! 

<< back to Insights