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Partial Solution to Textile Waste and Pollution

With 1.7 million tons of CO2 emitted annually, accounting for around 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions - about three times more than the global aviation industry. Textile production is also estimated to be responsible for about 20 percent of global clean water pollution from dyeing and finishing products. So, all solutions are both welcome and necessary.

Sign saying: I used to be a pair of jeans
Credit: Renewcell

It takes 713 gallons of water to make one cotton shirt, and globally, the production of textile fibers and apparel creates 110 million metric tons of waste every year. But here's some good news: a new material called Circulose is providing a sustainable solution.

At the Renewcell plant in Sundsvall, Sweden, 60,000 tons of old clothes every year are dissolved and processed into a substance that "looks like white cardboard, feels like watercolor paper, and - most importantly - can be spun into yarns for textile manufacturers," says the Monitor.

Renewcell is the world's first industrial-scale textile recycling plant. According to the Council of Fashion Designers of America, H&M was first to bring Circulose to market with a blue dress released in March 2020 as part of its Conscious collection. The dress was distributed globally, retailing for approximately $129. Now several brands, including Levi Strauss and Zara, are also using Circulose.

"From an environmental perspective, it means that every year, instead of huge swaths of forest being cut down, millions of old jeans and T-shirts are being used rather than them degrading into methane in landfill," says Nicole Rycroft, director of environmental nonprofit Canopy.

Child playing with wooden bricks


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