January 16, 2023

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle: What Textile Production Looks Like Across US, China, and EU?

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As more people become conscious of their environmental impact, sustainable sources like textile recycling are gaining increased attention. However, almost seventy-five percent of the world fashion market is concentrated in Europe, United States, and China. But how different are the approaches taken by these countries when reusing and repurposing? This blog will compare textile recycling efforts in these three world regions.


The United States: In many ways, the US follows a similar approach to recycling textiles for other materials, leaving much enforcement to individual states or local governments. This means that policy can vary drastically across different places within one country — some areas may ban certain kinds of fabric waste, while others have no restrictions. Recycling programs in the States are often run by nonprofit organizations that accept donations from individuals or businesses and then distribute them to those in need. These programs rely heavily on volunteer labor, who sort through materials and ensure they are safe for repurposing. While this approach has seen some success, there is still room for improvements in funding availability and public awareness on properly disposing unwanted items. That’s why the Fashion Act, which was set in 2022 for chemical use and climate targets, targets the year 2030. In addition, the Act targets sustainability in fashion, reducing water, plastic, and carbon use, providing ready-to-wear workers’ rights, and product circularity.


The European Union: EU approaches textile recycling like the US, with regulations that must be followed uniformly throughout member countries. One such initiative is Textiles 2030 — an effort spearheaded by policymakers and industry stakeholders to create an industry-wide roadmap for transitioning toward sustainability. In line with this target, which was started in March 2022, it is aimed that the products offered to the European market will last longer and be made from recycled fibers to be easier to repair and increase their useful life.


The EU also encourages more reuse before disposal through initiatives like “Take Back Clothing,” which collects clothes from consumers to be redistributed or sold second-hand. Retailers must also adhere to labeling requirements specifying what materials were used in a garment so customers can make better-informed decisions about their purchases.


China: Leading the way in textile recycling, China has implemented robust incentives and policies to encourage people to recycle old clothes, thus reducing waste. The Chinese government has also implemented strict rules and regulations on how recycled materials must be processed, ensuring that all the materials are safe for reuse in new products. As a result, textile recycling is becoming an increasingly important part of China’s economy, and their commitment shows that they are serious about doing their part in preserving our planet. Moreover, China plans to recycle 25% of all textile waste by 2025 and to have a waste textile recycling system by 2025.


Overall, it’s clear that while China, the US, and the EU are taking steps towards greater sustainability through textile recycling, there is still work to be done to become widespread globally.

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