Textiles are an integral part of our daily lives and include a wide range of products ranging from clothing, footwear, towels, bedlinen, upholstery to healthcare items, industrial fabrics and car upholstery. The current system for producing, distributing and using textiles moves in a linear way with most being used for a limited time and then discarded as waste. A circular economy for textiles is important because it aims to support sustainable consumption and use of textiles, champion resource reuse, and eliminate waste in the textiles sector.
We discard around 110,000 tonnes of textiles as waste every year and nearly all are processed via waste-to-energy plants or landfill. Of these textiles around 64,000 tonnes are discarded as household waste via kerbside collection and the majority are clothing (42,000 tonnes). This shows that the household bin is the single largest source of textiles waste.
Around 57,000 tonnes of textiles every year are collected separately through commercial textile banks and collections (24%) and direct donations to charity shops (10%). Of these collected textiles around 44,500 tonnes are sold for reuse - 6% are sold for reuse within Ireland and 21% are exported overseas. Vintage and online reselling of clothes is around 1,500 tonnes each year. In terms of recycling, around 15,000 tonnes of collected textiles each year go for recycling as rags, fibre, etc.
Textiles are one of the priority product value chains in the EPA’s Circular Economy Programme. The EPA, as part of its remit to inform national policy and address knowledge gaps has: