A company in Sweden has developed the world's first garment made entirely from recycled cotton. A Japanese company has developed a similar technology that polymerises polyester, turns it into polyester chips and then turns those chips into new fibers of equal quality. The result is a new polyester fabric that’s just as good as the fabric in the discarded clothes. The process reduces Co2 emissions by 77 per cent compared to polyester made from petroleum. Though the new garments do require non-recycled content the process also reduces the consumption of petroleum, the raw material from which polyester is made.
The prospect of clothes recycling makes fast fashion an attractive trend. The Swedish cotton recycling scores particularly well as it uses no new ingredients other than timber, whose cellulose fibers can be added to the existing cotton ones. But recycling of fabric often involves dangerous materials such as heavy metals. And because rayon is much harder to recycle than cotton, the recycling doesn't go full circle. It’s thought a better approach is to compost the clothes. Valuable nutrients could be added to clothes, which would benefit the soil when the garments are composted.
A vision is that clothes recycling will take a route similar to paper recycling. Early on in paper recycling, only a small share of paper was recycled. Now most paper is recycled and yields good results. The same thing could happen to fabric.