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| 1 minute read

Turning old clothes into new clothes

I’ll admit it: I am a bit of a hoarder. When searching through my wardrobe earlier in the week for an outfit to wear, I came across a skirt I bought over 20 years ago! I suppose fashion trends come and go and so holding on to old clothes like this and reusing them may be one way to avoid textile waste from accumulating in landfill or being incinerated. However, given how fast-paced the fashion industry is, real solutions for dealing with textile waste are urgently needed. I was therefore pleased to read about Project Re:claim, which is working to adapt existing technology for recycling plastic bottles to reprocess polyester textiles.  

Project Re:claim, which is based in Kettering in Northamptonshire, is a collaboration between charity The Salvation Army and recycling specialist Project Plan B. Polyester items from the charity’s sorting centre are processed in a heat extrusion process, which reduces the polyester textiles into rPET pellets. The pellets are then turned into fibre to be spun back into polyester textiles for new clothes. Project Re:claim plans to recycle 2500 tonnes of textile waste this year, and to double that amount in 2025.

Textile-to-textile recycling brings with it a number of challenges and Project Re:claim have faced them all, including optimising the feedstock (e.g. dealing with contaminants on donated items and working with manufacturers to ensure items are 100% polyester so that they can be processed in the pelleting machine without the need for additional pre-processing to remove non-polyester parts), determining how best to ship the pellets to yarn spinners located elsewhere in the world, and educating companies that are not used to working with recycled polyester.  

According to a report by the government recycling body, Wrap, about half of the 1.45 million tonnes of used textiles generated annually in the UK ends up in household waste and this is mostly then incinerated. The efforts of Project Re:claim, and other similar projects, mean that crucial steps are being taken towards returning textile waste to supply chains, which will play an important role in our goal to achieve net zero over the coming years.  

In the UK, about half of the 1.45m tonnes of used textiles generated annually ends up in the household bin and is mostly incinerated, according to a report by the government recycling body, Wrap.


sustainability, fashion & retail, chemistry, yes