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The future of recycled cotton, a circular and sustainable textile industry


The future of recycled cotton a circular and sustainable textile industry

The global textile industry is undergoing a significant shift towards sustainable practices. One key area of focus is recycled cotton fiber, a market poised for significant growth in the coming years.

The global recycled cotton fiber market is estimated to have reached a value of $1.2 billion in 2023 as per industry reports. It's projected to move ahead at a CAGR of over 15 per cent from 2023-28 period, reaching $2.5 billion by 2028. This exponential growth reflects the increasing adoption of sustainable practices by textile manufacturers and growing consumer awareness about the environmental impact of the fashion industry.

Production and consumption trends

Data suggests a positive trend in both production and consumption of recycled cotton fiber. Global production of recycled cotton fibers is steadily increasing, albeit lagging slightly behind consumption. This indicates a growing demand that the market is striving to meet.

Table: Global production and consumption of recycled cotton fibers


Production (mn tons)

Consumption (mn tons)







2022 (Est.)



Asia Pacific leads the pack, accounting for over 60 per cent of global production. China is the undisputed leader in production. India too has emerged as a major player. China boasts of a robust infrastructure for textile waste collection and processing, making it the world's largest producer of recycled cotton fibers. Meanwhile, countries like Italy, Germany, and Spain are actively investing in innovative recycling technologies, propelling them to the forefront of European production. The US is witnessing significant growth in the recycled cotton fiber sector, driven by rising consumer eco-consciousness and government support for sustainable initiatives.

On the consumption side, the story unfolds differently. Europe is the frontrunner, driven by stringent environmental regulations and a high level of consumer awareness regarding sustainability. Brands across the continent are actively incorporating recycled cotton into their product lines. North America displays a growing appetite for recycled cotton, with major fashion retailers and brands embracing eco-conscious practices. Asia Pacific, meanwhile a production powerhouse, has room for growth in terms of consumption as consumer education on sustainable fashion picks up pace. In fact, this region is expected to witness the fastest growth in recycled cotton consumption in the coming years, with a growing middle class and rising awareness about environmental issues.

The growing demand has seen several companies now moving in to manufacture recycled cotton. For example, Recover, has emerged as a leading manufacturer of recycled cotton fibers. They exemplify the industry's commitment to sustainability. Their innovative technology transforms pre-consumer and post-consumer textile waste into high-quality recycled cotton, minimizing environmental impact. Recover's success story underscores the immense potential of this sector. Similarly, Everlane, this US-based clothing brand champions transparency and sustainability. Their transparency in sourcing and production processes resonates with environmentally conscious consumers. Their ReCotton collection utilizes pre-consumer waste to create high-quality garments.

Challenges and opportunities

However despite its growing popularity recycled cotton manufacturers face several challenges.

Limited supply: Currently, the supply of recycled cotton fiber lags behind demand. This presents an opportunity for companies to invest in infrastructure and innovation to increase recycling capacity.

Sorting and contamination: Effectively sorting different fiber types and minimizing contamination in recycled cotton streams are crucial for maintaining fiber quality. New technologies like near-infrared spectroscopy offer promising solutions.

Quality concerns: Maintaining consistent fiber quality across batches remains a challenge.

Consumer awareness: While awareness of recycled cotton is growing, there's a need for further education on its benefits and quality. Collaboration between brands and retailers can bridge this gap.

Moving ahead, investing in innovative mechanical and chemical recycling technologies will be key to scaling up production and improving fiber quality. Also, developing efficient systems for sorting and collecting pre- and post-consumer textile waste is essential to ensure a steady supply of high-quality feedstock. Collaboration between brands, retailers, recyclers, and policymakers is crucial to build a robust and sustainable recycled cotton ecosystem.

The recycled cotton fiber market is on an exciting path. By addressing the challenges and capitalizing on the opportunities, the industry can play a significant role in creating a more sustainable and circular textile industry. As consumer demand for eco-friendly products continues to rise, recycled cotton fiber is poised to become a mainstream material in the years to come.


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