Environmental impact of textile reuse and recycling – A review
Abstract This paper reviews studies of the environmental impact of textile reuse and recycling, to provide a summary of the current knowledge and point out areas for further research. Forty-one studies were reviewed, whereof 85% deal with recycling and 41% with reuse (27% cover both reuse and recycling). Fibre recycling is the most studied recycling type (57%), followed by polymer/oligomer recycling (37%), monomer recycling (29%), and fabric recycling (14%). Cotton (76%) and polyester (63%) are the most studied materials. The reviewed publications provide strong support for claims that textile reuse and recycling in general reduce environmental impact compared to incineration and landfilling, and that reuse is more beneficial than recycling. The studies do, however, expose scenarios under which reuse and recycling are not beneficial for certain environmental impacts. For example, as benefits mainly arise due to the avoided production of new products, benefits may not occur in cases with low replacement rates or if the avoided production processes are relatively clean. Also, for reuse, induced customer transport may cause environmental impact that exceeds the benefits of avoided production, unless the use phase is sufficiently extended. In terms of critical methodological assumptions, authors most often assume that textiles sent to recycling are wastes free of environmental burden, and that reused products and products made from recycled materials replace products made from virgin fibres. Examples of other content mapped in the review are: trends of publications over time, common aims and geographical scopes, commonly included and omitted impact categories, available sources of primary inventory data, knowledge gaps and future research needs. The latter include the need to study cascade systems, to explore the potential of combining various reuse and recycling routes. Highlights We reviewed 41 studies of the environmental impact of textile reuse and recycling. In general, there are environmental benefits with textile reuse and recycling. Textile reuse leads to greater environmental benefits compared to recycling. Most benefits come from avoided production, so the replacement rate is a key factor. We list sources of inventory data, reveal knowledge gaps and suggest research needs. Graphical abstract [DISPLAY OMISSION]
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