Resources used textiles

Used textiles require very careful handling when it comes to collecting and sorting. Unlike collected mixed material streams like lightweight packaging or paper, wearable used textiles are directly being reused as a component of the collected mix. Improper handling, either because of poor expertise or because of using inappropriate machinery, leads to a significant reduction of the amount of wearable second-hand clothing.

Over 70% of the world’s population are using second-hand clothing.1 Reusing abroad does not compete with local economies, although this is often claimed. Instead, it rather allows an affordable access to high-quality textiles. If the needs for second-hand clothing were to be met by primary raw materials, it would have a crucial influence on the environment and global resources.


Recycling textiles is active environment protection

For every reused textile, necessary resources and harmful substances are being needed during the primary production. The selected examples below serve to illustrate this:

  • Besides the extremely high space demands2 (67 ha per ton), the production of 1 kg cotton fibres requires approx. 22,000 to 25,000 litre water.3
  • Cotton production requires approx. 11% of the total use of pesticides and 25% of the total use of insecticides worldwide.4
  • About half of the fibres being used for textiles are produced from fossile.5
  • (Preparation for) Reusing a t-shirt alone saves 2,5 kg CO2-eq.6

Reusing used textiles is a crucial part for conserving resources, saving energy, reducing water consumption and minimising the use of harmful substances


Our aim

It is our objective as the GftZ to achieve the best value and high-quality recycling of used textiles following the prioritisation according to the waste hierarchy.


That is:

  • Wearable used textiles and shoes are reused and sold as second-hand clothing afterwards.
  • Non-wearable used textiles are processed further and recycled.
  • Unrecyclable used textiles are processed by energetic recovery.
  • Residues and foreign materials are disposed properly.




1 www.wasteonline.org.uk

2 Industrievereinigung Chemiefaser e.V., www.ivc-ev.de

3 Engelhardt: The Fibre Year 2009/2010 – A World Survey on Textile Nonwovens Industry, 2010

4 Kooistra, K.; Termorshuizen, A.: The Sustainability of cotton, 2006

5 Engelhardt 2010, s.o.

6 WRAP: Benifits of Reuse, Case Study: Clothing, November 2011