12 March 2024

Textile Waste Recycling Conundrum

Toomas Allikas, textile waste expert, writes on LinkedIn that textile waste recycling: what does the fate of Renewcell and Infinited Fiber Company tell us?

The fashion industry just got hit with some pretty important news about textile waste recycling in the last weeks.

First, textile-to-textile (T2T) recycler Infinited Fiber Company in Finland announced that it is laying off staff to “adjust the company’s cost structure and operations” due to the failure to find more financing.

Second, the Swedish recycler Renewcell went bankrupt, knocking another leading T2T recycler off the map. Both companies were operating far under production capacity.

These events should be a shock to the fashion industry as the two firms were seen as leaders in textile recycling technology and saviors of the fashion industry. H&M was an investor in both companies and Inditex (ZARA SA) pledged to buy €100M in material from them. The mantra of the fast fashion industry has always been that “closed loop” T2T recycling will solve the textile waste problem. What went wrong?

Various articles point out a variety of reasons for the failures, from the high cost of such recycled material vs. low cost of virgin textiles to the mismatch of the recycled pulp to clothing production machines in Asia, to lack of support from governments. (it’s misleading as EIB and other gov. inst. extensively supported these companies). It is important to mention that both H&M and Inditex also had pre-signed contracts with both companies to buy their recycled textile materials and apparently backed out of the deals. So something clearly has gone wrong here.

Even if the companies had succeeded, the impact on the 12 million tons of textile waste per year in Europe would have been less than 1%.

First, Renewcell plant capacity was planned at 60,000 tons/year and Infinited Fiber Company 30,000 tons/year.

Second, they only recycle cellulose-based waste, not synthetic materials, which is about 70% of all textile waste.

⚠ The answer is that clothing retailers and governments must stop their wishful thinking and realize that T2T recycling is not the answer to the problem. That is due to the complexity of the industry and the clothing itself, where complete T2T recycling is not that easy. However, it is too little, too late, and something else must be done.

❗ That is why it’s time for clothing retailers and governments to think out of the box about what else can be done with 92 million tons of textile waste yearly!

This is where companies like Greenful Group step in with a scalable business model that uses textile waste in very high volumes to manufacture sustainable construction materials that are 100% eco-friendly and low CO2.

So there is still hope on the horizon if clothing retailers and governments get out of their narrow mindset for a complete “closed loop” solution and start thinking about other possible solutions. Otherwise, we will all be buried under the mountains of textile waste.

About APLF

We bring leather, material and fashion businesses together: an opportunity to meet and greet face to face. We bring them from all parts of the world so that they can find fresh partners, discover new customers or suppliers and keep ahead of industry developments.


We organise a number of trade exhibitions which focus on fashion and lifestyle: sectors that are constantly in flux, so visitors and exhibitors alike need to be constantly aware both of the changes around them and those forecast for coming seasons.


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