Textiles for circular fashion: The logic behind recycling options

Paulien Harmsen*, Michiel Scheffer, Harriette Bos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


For the textile industry to become sustainable, knowledge of the origin and production of resources is an important theme. It is expected that recycled feedstock will form a significant part of future resources to be used. Textile recycling (especially post-consumer waste) is still in its infancy and will be a major challenge in the coming years. Three fundamental problems hamper a better understanding of the developments on textile recycling: the current classification of textile fibres (natural or manufactured) does not support textile recycling, there is no standard definition of textile recycling technologies, and there is a lack of clear communication about the technological progress (by industry and brands) and benefits of textile recycling from a consumer perspective. This may hamper the much-needed further development of textile recycling. This paper presents a new fibre classification based on chemical groups and bonds that form the backbone of the polymers of which the fibres are made and that impart characteristic properties to the fibres. In addition, a new classification of textile recycling was designed based on the polymer structure of the fibres. These methods make it possible to unravel the logic and preferred recycling routes for different fibres, thereby facilitating communication on recycling. We concluded that there are good recycling options for mono-material streams within the cellulose, polyamide and polyester groups. For blended textiles, the perspective is promising for fibre blends within a single polymer group, while combinations of different polymers may pose problems in recycling.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9714
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2021


  • Circular fashion
  • Polymer structure
  • Recycling
  • Textile


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