Textile Waste and the Circular Economy

The Textile industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and is the world’s second-biggest industrial polluter, behind oil. It’s criticised for unsustainable use of water, deforestation, fossil fuels and energy. Some manufacturing processes are linked with toxic chemicals, waste, pollution of drinking water, and social injustice.

In addition, Europe’s used textiles, often exported to African and Asian countries, are a growing problem. Re-use and recycling of textiles in Europe is not capable of processing the amount we discard. Often, poor quality textiles from the fashion industry end up in landfill or informal waste streams, increasing pollution in these countries.

The amount of used textiles exported from the EU has tripled over the past two decades from slightly over 550,000 tonnes in 2000 to almost 1.7 million tonnes in 2019.
European Environment Agency (EEA)

Creating a circular economy for textiles is essential to prevent pollution caused by waste and to reduce reliance on virgin materials. According to the United Nations, it takes around 2,000 gallons of water to make a typical pair of jeans and approx. 34kg of CO2. And a truckload of textiles is landfilled or burned every second! Using waste as a raw material is essential to reduce the polluting effect of textiles on our planet.

Creative use of Textile Waste

Innovative manufacturers are finding ways to re-use waste, either from the fashion industry or from textile waste in their own production process. They’re avoiding adding to the problem whilst also looking for opportunities to utilise textile waste from the fashion industry.


Kvadrat rewool fabric

Danish textile company Kvadrat, prioritises responsible textile production using innovative design and techniques to minimise the environmental impact.

Really is a high-quality circular engineered surface material for tabletop from Kvadrat. Designed to be reused, it is made from upcycled end-of-life textiles and is fully circular. Each 800 x 1600 textile tabletop recycles the equivalent of 60 t‑shirts.

Rewool is crafted using 45% recycled wool. Re-wool is a rich upholstery textile with a sustainable profile. The textile is partly made by reusing scraps from Kvadrat’s yarn spinners in the UK (United Kingdom). It is designed by Margrethe Odgaard.


Planq furniture textile waste

Dutch company Planq have turned trash into treasure with their re-use of jeans and other waste textiles. It takes 12 pairs of jeans to make the seat for their Unusual chair. And making one chair with recycled denim saves 16.275 litres of drinking water.


Vepa Moi from Refelt

At Dutch manufacturer Vepa, products are made in the most sustainable way and designed to reduce waste. Inevitably, in the upholstery process some excess fabric is generated. Re-felt’ uses the residual material in the cutting process and turns it into useable material for acoustic panelling. And the re-felt mats have better sound absorbing qualities than conventional and less sustainable alternatives.

There is also an option to convert previously worn workplace uniforms into re-felt’ saving these from ending up in landfill.


Abstracta d B modular system

With a zero tolerance for waste, furniture manufacturer, Abstracta believe waste is simply a resource in the wrong place.’ Treating textile waste as a valuable raw material, it becomes acoustic filling for their dB collection of screens, modular sofas, booths and planters.


Svensson Textile Waste Reuse

Despite their best efforts to reduce waste in production, residue fabric is a reality in textile and furniture manufacture. To be as circular as possible, textile company, Svensson are part of a Swedish initiative called TexChain3. This aims to create new, value chains which use leftover textiles from the manufacturing industry as a raw material. Involving 32 companies from the furniture, interiors, property and fashion industries, the plan is to utilise this waste’ product and keep it in the circular economy.

Are you interested in improving circularity in your business? Would you like to find out more about circular solutions, re-use and refurbishment of furniture that is nearing the end of its expected lifespan? Email us hello@yourbureau.com for information on the services we provide.