Parshant Swarnkar, Kedar Kulkarni and Aranya Mallick*

Department of Fibres and Textile Processing Technology, Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai


The increase in demand and consumption of textile materials has resulted in stupendous textile waste globally. The reusability and recycling of textiles can provide solutions to various environmental, economic, and social issues. Textile recycling and reusability have gained much importance in several years due to the fast-fashion culture adopted by various companies globally. This trend has resulted in the overconsumption of textiles leading to considerable textile waste produced annually. This article discusses various aspects of reusability and recycling of cloths. An online survey was conducted to know consumers opinion on how they are reusing their old textile materials.

Keywords: – fast-fashion, recycling, reusability, textiles, waste generation

  1. Introduction

There has been a steep increase in textile consumption due to concepts like fast fashion, which has significantly increased waste cloth generation. It has thus become essential to spread awareness among the consumers on the reusability and recycling of textile materials.

In garment manufacturing, the waste is generated in various stages of production such as yarn production, fabric production, pre-treatment, dyeing, printing, and finishing treatments. The major solid waste generated by this sector is fibre wastes, scraps, cut-offs. Dyeing, printing, and finishing processes use up to 200 litres of water per kilogram of fibre, causing the largest waste- water generation in this sector by volume.

These facts and figures indicate that there is a need to increase the reusability and recycling of textile materials and be beneficial for both environment and business.

Textile waste is classified into two stages:

  • Pre-Consumer Waste (During Production)

»   Damaged or defective material samples

»   Leftover fabric from the cutting process

  • Post-consumer waste

»   Worn-out textile goods

»   Waste originates from consumers

Advantages of Recycling

Improving waste management can help both environment and business.

  • Helps in protection of the environment
  • Reduces space for landfills
  • Recycling of textile will foster recycling businesses
  • Recycling improves economy
  • Generates more recycle items in the market

Limitations of Recycling

There are numerous obstacles to textile recycling, of which some are:

»   Many textiles’ dyes and chemicals hinder the recycling of textiles.

»   High costs of the recycling process.

»   Lack of technologies for sorting textile wastes

»   Knowledge barrier among consumers (ignorance of what to recycle)

  • Reasons for textile wastes

The various reasons for textile waste generation are the following:

  • Attitude towards textiles: Indians have a long history of using textiles and reusing them as much as In common household practices, a sari upon completion of its role as a garment, can be transformed into a curtain, then rags, and finally a lamp wig.There were many frugal innovative approaches to recycling these textile materials. In the name of modernization, these innovations lost their beauty and the consumerism has started filling the society with newer and fashionable products, many a times unnecessarily. This western way of life contributes significantly to waste generation and landfill garbage.
  • Fast fashion: Slow fashion has been overtaken by the destructive culture of rapid fashion in the previous ten years. Only the use of synthetic and hazardous dyes allows for the mass production of fashionable garments at the lowest possible price. This fast-fashion culture produces a large volume of clothing, which contributes to increased carbon emissions and global Low-quality materials quickly find up in landfills, where they become a problem to manage.

Fashion production accounts for 10% of total world carbon emissions, the same as the European Union, according to Business Insider. It depletes water supplies and pollutes rivers and streams, while 85 percent of all textiles end up in landfills every year. Every year, washing garments discharges 5,000 tonnes of microfibres into the ocean, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles. [1]

Zara was able to develop, manufacture, and deliver a new clothing in two weeks in 2012; Forever 21 took six weeks, while H&M took eight. As a result, the fashion business generates massive volumes of garbage. [2]

  • Frequency of shopping: Zara was able to develop, manufacture, and deliver a new clothing in two weeks in 2012; Forever 21 took six weeks, while H&M took eight. As a result, the fashion business generates massive volumes of garbage. It was calculated that in the last ten years, the shopping levels of women have double.
  • Lack of eco-friendly practices: Both synthetic and regenerated textile fibre production results in wastes that are not recycled effectively. On the other hand, due to lack of information about how to treat fibre wastes of natural origin, they are dis- carded in large quantities along with the synthetic Darker shades and hazardous textile wastewater are related with darker textile colours. Despite the fact that cleaning the wastewater generated by using more dyes is highly difficult, the majority of responders dress in dark colours. The textile business releases toxic elements such as lead, chlorine, and formaldehyde into water bodies.
    • Ways to reduce waste production Recycle

In 2017, one garbage truck load of textiles was predict- ed to be landfilled or burned every second. It can be said that that tendency has escalated over the period. Even though it is possible to recycle clothing, only about 1% of the clothes is recycled globally for making new clothes. Only 12% is recycled and used in various ways, such as mattress stuffing.[3]

Prolong the life of your clothes 

Preventing textiles waste starts with buying less. The key to making this happen is to prolong the life of textiles that we already own. This involves taking good care of garments.


Upcycling helps lessen the amount of waste going into landfills which can take thousands of years to break down. the benefits of up-cycling include resource conservation, lesser carbon footprints, saving energy, and saving landfill space


Instead of throwing the textiles wastes away, donation is one of the best ways to reduce textile waste. Donating the clothes will make the clothes getting used and reduce the number of clothes going into landfills.

Buy less, and make it last

It all comes down to consuming less. It’s very important to choose high-quality items made from sustainable materials that will last for years.

       2. Method

    • Research approach

A survey has been carried out to understand the awareness related to recycling of textile materials among the customers. This survey followed a qualitative approach in which data is collected from various individuals. The survey questionnaire is designed in such a way as to know consumer behavior and preferences. In this research, the study was done on individual perceptions of recycling and re-usability. The questions asked were based on the various concepts of recycling and reusability. The questionnaire prepared for the survey is sent to the consumers through email and direct messaging.

  • Data Collection

The survey was taken by 75 consumers out of which 65.3% (49) were male and 37.3% (26) were female. They belonged to various age groups, around 18.7% were below 20 years and the rest were above 20 years of age.

  • Analysis

Data obtained through the survey is then analysed and discussed in different sections.

Data analysis is done through pie charts and graphs, some questions were based on respondents’ opinion which is grouped as per their uniqueness and men- tioned in this report.

       3. Results and discussion

    • Views on Reusing

Out of 75 respondents’ who had taken the survey, the majority of respondents’ I.e. 70.7% said it depends on the type of fabric to be reused, this is because different garments or cloths have their different use like cotton cloths can be reused as a good dusting cloth whereas polyester cannot be that much effective.

Figure 3.1 Graphical representation of responses for reuse of old cloths or fabrics

Figure 3.2 Graphical representation of responses for various applications of used clothes or fabrics

Based on the responses 94.7% of respondents had positively replied for reusing the old fabrics. Out of these respondents, the majority of respondents (66) i.e. 88% of the respondents had voted for reusing as a dusting cloth, whereas there is a good amount of awareness for different kinds of reusing as old clothes turned into mats, old clothes turned into rugs, Sarees can be used as ropes, Cotton clothes can be used as bandages. Respondents had voted for multiple options which shows various reusability of a particular fabric.

  • Discarding, Donation, and Reusability of Various Textile materials

Fig 3.3 Graphical representation for frequency of donation of fabrics

An almost equal number of responses for frequency of donation of the fabric’s majority of respondents I.e. 48% choose to donate the old fabric or cloth once a year. And 46.7% of the respondents choose to donate clothes every 5-6 months some respondents also opt- ed to donate in a month because of the increase in textile consumption due to changing fashion and concepts like fast fashion.

  • Various kinds of garments and their choices

Fig 3.4 Graphical representation of responder’s choice according to the garment

Jeans with holes: – The majority of the respondents (42) had chosen to donate jeans with physical holes defects like having holes and 24 respondents had chosen to reuse them. The rest had chosen to discard.

Belts purses and accessories: – The majority of the respondents (46) had chosen to donate these items and 19 respondents had chosen to reuse them. The rest had chosen to discard.

Undergarments (eg: – nightwear’s, briefs): – The majority of the respondents (42) had chosen to discard and 27 respondents had chosen to donate them. The remaining consumers had chosen to reuse it.

Children’s Clothing: – The majority of the respondents (64) had chosen to donate children’s clothing and 8 respondents had chosen to reuse it. The remaining consumers had chosen to discard.

Shoes: – The majority of the respondents (54) had chosen to donate shoes and 13 respondents had chosen to reuse them. The remaining consumers had chosen to discard.

Curtains: – The Majority of the respondents (51) had chosen to Donate Curtains and 17 respondents had chosen to reuse them. The remaining had chosen to discard.

  • Choice between similar garments

Respondents were given a choice of choosing similar garments but one is made from regenerated(recycled) fibres and the other is made from virgin cotton fibres. The majority of the respondents i.e. 41.3% had chosen the garment having better comfort property among them on the other hand 30.7% of respondents had chosen the garment made from regenerated(recycled) fibres. This shows that consumers are more inclined towards the comfort of the garments but some respondents had also considered the regenerated garments as their first choice.

Figure 3.5 Graphical representation of choice between two garments

  • Awareness

Respondents were asked questions on various factors in the recycling of textiles like water footprint, carbon footprint, concepts like cradle to cradle, and water requirements for making a recycled Cotton T-Shirt.

  • Water footprint: – This term is used to show the amount of water is being used to produce a particular goods.

Figure 3.6 Graphical representation of awareness about the water footprint

The majority of the respondents (54) I.e. 72% respondents are aware of the term water footprint. In textile processing large amount of water is being utilized, for making a cotton T-Shirt around 2500L of water is being consumed. The response from the respondents shows a good amount of awareness for this term.

» Another question was asked to the respondents about their awareness of how much water is re- quired for the production of a recycled cotton T-shirt.

Figure 3.7 Graphical representation of awareness about the water footprint of recycled cotton T-shirt

The majority of the respondents (30) i.e. 40% are aware of the water requirements i.e. 300L of water is required to make a recycled cotton T-Shirt. Whereas for production of a virgin cotton T-shirt requires around 2500L of water. This shows that respondents are aware of water requirements and many respondents are choosing regenerated fibre clothes. This is a very good sign for future sustainability.

  • Carbon footprint: This term is used for the number of gases particularly carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere by human

Figure 3.8 Graphical representation of the percentage of respondents aware of the term carbon footprint

The majority of the respondents (58) i.e. 77.3% are aware of the term carbon footprint. The carbon foot- print of various fibres varies greatly depending on the fibre used. Furthermore, according to a study conduct- ed on behalf of the Bioregional Development Group by the Stockholm Environment Institute, the energy required (and thus the CO2 emitted) to produce 1 tonne of spun fibre for synthetics is substantially higher than for cotton. [4]

The energy consumption for natural fibre cultivation starts at planting and field operations – mechanized irrigation, weed control, pest control, and fertilizers, harvesting, and yields. Synthetic fertiliser use is a significant part of traditional agriculture: producing one tonne of nitrogen fertiliser releases roughly seven tonnes of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases. Synthetic

fibres are created from fossil fuels, and both the ex- traction of the oil from the ground and the production of the polymers take a significant amount of energy.[4]

Table1: The amount of carbon dioxide liberated per ton of fibre

  • Cradle to Cradle: – This term is defined as the design and production of the products in such a way that at the end of their life they can be easily recycled or up-cycled.

Fig 3.10 Graphical representation of the percentage of respondents aware of concept cradle to cradle

The majority of the respondents (50) I.e. 66.7% are aware of the term cradle to cradle. Many fashion brands are implementing this circular economy-based cradle to cradle in their business models. Adidas, Asos, Decathlon, Eileen Fisher, H&M, Inditex, M&S, Mud- Jeans, Target, and Tommy Hilfiger are some examples of fashion companies who have made a commitment to cradle to cradle. Their goals are similar: they want to emphasise circular design, enhance clothing collection, and utilise post-consumer trash. Adidas and H&M have established goals for themselves, such as committing to solely utilising recycled plastic in their shoes and aiming to utilise only sustainable materials in their production by 2030. [5]

Figure 3.11 Representing circular cycle of textile from production to recycling

   4. Views on Synthetic and Natural Fibres

Respondents were asked a question about which of the two types of fibre is more environmentally friendly. They have responded for Natural fibres and their views are as follows:

  • Natural fibres do not pollute much because they are biodegradable whereas synthetics are man- made and cannot be degraded easily.
  • In natural fibres if no insecticide or pesticides are used then it is environmentally friendly, else chemicals make them harmful to the environment.
  • Natural ones are obtained from plants and animals whereas synthetics are purely made from
  • Because natural ones are cellulosic materials and can be decomposed easily.
  • Synthetics are contributing a lot of waste and also a huge amount of carbon dioxide is emitted in their processing.
  • Synthetic fibres are major plastic pollutants instead of synthetics we can use biosynthetic fibres or natural fibres.
  • Natural fibres are eco-friendly and have advantages like lightweight, renewability, biodegrad- ability, and high specific properties.


The motive of this survey is to find out how aware consumers are of various recycling and reusability aspects of textiles. In this research, we observed that respondents are aware of various recycling and reusability aspects of textiles. Lot many respondents turned up for reusing textiles by various methods as discussed. With the increase in the consumption of textiles many respondents also turned up to donate various textile materials like used jeans, children’s clothing, shoes, curtains, etc. Moreover, respondents choose garments made from regenerated fibre as their choice of selecting a garment that shows the sustainable future of the clothing industry. Many respondents are aware of concepts like water footprint, carbon footprint, and cradle to cradle. Overall respondents showed a positive out- look towards recycling and the reusability of textiles.

     6. References

  1. the-fashion-industry-emits-more-carbon-than-inter- national-flights-and-maritime-shipping-combined- here-are-the-biggest-ways-it-impacts-the-planet-/articleshow/71640863.cms
  3. https://www.checintorg/fast-fashion-re- duce-clothing-waste/
  4. asp?id=4652
  5. cradle-to-cradle-approach-in-fashion.html