Textile waste

The challenge of textile recycling

Does your event have loads of fabric banners, scrim, uniforms and other textiles left over afterwards?

Do you have a plan for what to do with all that fabric next? Textiles at events will come in the form of branding (flags, banners, scrims, decor), single-use carpeting, curtaining, plus uniforms, and even clothes discarded by marathon runners.

You must come up with a responsible place for these textiles after you have finished with them at your event. The challenge is that textile recycling is quite a specialised process, and it will likely not come as part of your standard event cleaning pick up services unless you specifically request it. 

Of course using hired-in options is ideal, but for those events that need branding, inevitably this will be a single-use plastic option, e.g, polyester material.

For those once-off items, if they can’t be re-used, donated, re-purposed, then you need to have identified how you are going to ensure these resources do not become wasted resources.

Where to send your branding and garments?

Because excess and discarded garments, victims of the fast fashion trend, need recycling, we can piggy back a little bit on this for our textile branding recycling.

You may need to do a little digging to find where to send your textiles.  Ask the branding company providing it, as they may have a take back service. 

However not all countries have textile recycling locally. I was surprised recently at an event in Sweden where no textile recycling was available. Thankfully they’ve been working hard on that. See the video above for their innovation.

Useful links
Textile Recycling Association – UK

Australian Circular Textile Association

Business recycling – Australia

About textile recycling 

Textile recycling is a difficult and time consuming process due to the huge range and combination of materials possible.

Textiles are either natural materials such as cotton and wool, or synthetic such as polyester.

For natural fibres, the garments or material is sorted by type and colour. The textiles are then pulled into fibres or shredded, then cleaned and re-spun. Some natural textiles, once shredded are used for stuffing  for furniture or cushions.

Polyester-based textiles are shredded and then granulated for processing into polyester chips. These are then melted and used to create new fibers for use in new polyester fabrics.

Textiles must be separated from other waste and kept clean in order to be processed.

Make sure you check with your waste management company and processing facilities to see if they can take it and in what condition.

Alternatively look for local textile reclamation programmes and send your used textiles out locally. Reuse centres and secondhand stores may also be interested.