How Sustainable Are Recycled Fabrics? A Life-Cycle Analysis

How Sustainable Are Recycled Fabrics? A Life-Cycle Analysis

By
Quynh Nguyen

Read Time:21 Minutes

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Amid growing concerns about the environmental impacts of the textile industry, brands are directing efforts and the attention of their customers toward recycled fabrics as sustainable options. The claim of reducing waste might be solid, yet there is more to recycled textiles than recycling steps. So, we had to ask: How sustainable are organic fabrics?

Recycled fabrics are generally sustainable. Manufacturing recycled fabrics with discarded materials reduces waste, lessens pressure on natural resources, and demands relatively less energy. Yet, fossil-based recycled fabrics release microplastic while in use and don’t degrade during disposal. 

In this article, we’ll walk you through the life-cycle of recycled fabrics used for clothing and household items. Then, we will evaluate their sustainability, potential, and shortfalls. And in the end, we’ll show you tips for buying sustainable products made with recycled fabrics.

Here’s How We Assessed the Sustainability of Recycled Fabrics

Recycled fabrics are made with fibers reclaimed from waste. Using discarded natural or synthetic materials to produce recycled fabrics reduces pressure on extracting virgin natural resources, lowering the environmental impacts. Thus, recycled fabrics are generally considered sustainable. 

“Sustainable: The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level | Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”

Oxford Dictionary

To understand the sustainability of recycled fabrics, we must assess their life-cycle and each stage’s sustainability. This life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a method for evaluating the environmental impacts of products and materials. Over the years, companies have strategically used LCA to research and create more sustainable products. So, let’s have a look at the LCA of canvas fabrics!

In this article, we’ll use the cradle-to-grave perspective of the LCA, examining the five stages of the life-cycle of clothes and bedding made with recycled fabrics. When applicable, we also look at cradle-to-gate assessments

The life-cycle stages of recycled fabricsEach stage’s sustainability
Sourcing of recycled fabricsSourcing discarded materials for making recycled fabrics is generally sustainable. It utilizes waste instead of depleting natural resources, which are, in some cases, nonrenewables. However, the carbon footprint of sourcing waste for recycled fabrics could be significant when collecting, sorting, and manufacturing hubs are far apart. 
Manufacturing of recycled fabricsThe sustainability of manufacturing recycled fabrics varies depending on the type of recycling. 

Chemical recycling depends on chemicals to retrieve the fibers from the waste before reproducing them, creating hazardous by-products and waste. It is also relatively energy-intensive. However, chemical recycling can retain the original fibers’ properties, enabling unlimited recycling attempts and closing the textile production loop.

Conversely, mechanical recycling doesn’t use toxic chemicals. However, this method of producing recycled fabrics tends to suffer from inferior quality and the limited number of times fibers can be mechanically recycled, making truly circular plastic impossible via the mechanical route. 
Transporting of recycled fabricsTransporting recycled fabrics is generally unsustainable. It can be a carbon-intensive life-cycle stage for clothing and household items made with natural fibers due to the distances covered and emissions associated with transporting vehicles. Recycled fabrics typically travel from various locations to collection hubs, processing factories, then sorting centers, shops, and consumers’ homes before going to recycling centers or landfills. 
Usage of recycled fabricsThe sustainability of using recycled fabrics varies significantly, from unsustainable (recycled synthetic fabrics) to sustainable (recycled natural fabrics).

Using synthetic fabrics, virgin and recycled alike, is unsustainable mainly because washing synthetic materials during the usage phase contributes to the increasingly serious problem of microplastic presence in marine environments. Additionally, like their virgin counterparts, recycled polyester fabrics or recycled nylon fabrics are generally not breathable. They require frequent washing, thus using a great deal of water and energy. 

Using natural fabrics, virgin and recycled alike, is generally sustainable. Natural materials, like recycled wool and recycled cotton, are usually breathable. They don’t need to be washed frequently—much less often than synthetic fabrics—and thus they save water and energy. Also, washing natural fabrics doesn’t cause microplastics to be released into the environment. 
End-of-life of recycled fabricsThe sustainability of recycled fabrics’ end-of-life stage depends on the recycled fibers used in manufacturing. 

The end-of-life of recycled fabrics made with synthetic fibers like recycled polyester or recycled nylon is unsustainable. These materials are not biodegradable. 

The end-of-life of natural-based recycled fabrics like recycled wool or recycled cotton is generally sustainable. These materials are biodegradable and can be disposed of by composting, incinerating, and landfilling. 

Overall, we can say that recycled fabrics are generally sustainable. However, the actual environmental impact of a particular product, whether a pair of jeans or a rain jacket, depends on more specific factors, including: 

  • the sourcing of the recycled fibers 
  • the method of recycling
  • the type of energy used in manufacturing and usage
  • the distance and mode of transportation 

Let’s dive deeper into each life-cycle stage and find out how you can buy recycled fabrics more sustainably. 

How Sustainable Is the Sourcing of Reclaimed Fibers for Recycled Fabrics

Sourcing discarded materials for making recycled fabrics is generally sustainable. It utilizes waste instead of depleting natural resources, which are, in some cases, nonrenewables. However, the carbon footprint of sourcing waste for recycled fabrics could be significant when collecting, sorting, and manufacturing hubs are far apart. 

What Raw Materials Are Used for Recycled Fabrics

Recycled fabrics can be made fully with a natural fiber (cotton, wool) or a synthetic fiber (polyester, nylon) reclaimed from waste. 

In many cases, a mixed fiber blend is used to make recycled fabrics. Depending on the manufacturing process and the desired properties, recycled fabrics can be made with: 

There are two main sources to reclaim fibers for recycled fabrics: 

  • textile waste (fabric scraps, trims, used garments, throwaway linens, etc.) 
  • non-textile waste (plastic bottles, fishing nets, cotton linters, pineapple leaves, apple pomace, etc.) 

How Do the Raw Materials Sourced for Recycled Cotton Fabrics Impact the Environment

Sourcing waste to make recycled fabrics is generally sustainable. Recycling helps reduce waste. Also, the more recycled content is used in making recycled fabrics, the lower the pressure is on extracting and refining fossil fuels for virgin synthetic fibers or exhausting natural resources to grow crops or raise animals for natural fibers. 

Sourcing Textile Waste to Make Recycled Fabrics Reduces Waste 

Globally, a truckload of used clothes is dumped into a landfill site every second. That is a lot of waste, considering all the resources used in making those clothes. (It takes 2,700 liters of water to make a single cotton shirt—that is the amount of drinking water for one person in two and a half years.) 

Recycling discarded fabrics and turning them into materials like recycled wool or recycled nylon is a good way to reduce waste while closing the loop within the textile industry. 

There is much room for recycling because the current recycling rate of used clothes is rather low. 

The EPA estimates that in 2017, of the 16.9 million tons of textile waste generated in the US, only 15.2% was recycled.

Sourcing Waste to Make Recycled Fabrics Reduces the Pressure to Exhaust Natural Resources For Virgin Fibers

Recycling waste to replace virgin fiber sources for fabric-making bypasses the growing or extracting of virgin raw materials, which can be resource-intensive. 

Polyester, cotton, wool, and nylon are four commonly used fibers with a resource-intensive sourcing stage. Thus, sourcing waste to make recycled varieties will save a lot of natural resources, most importantly nonrenewable fossil fuels. 

Here are the main resource-relevant impacts of sourcing virgin polyester, cotton, wool, and nylon:

Sourcing virgin polyester 

  • Making raw materials for polyester from fossil fuels depletes nonrenewable resources
  • Making raw materials for polyester requires significant amounts of energy, which further depletes nonrenewable fossil fuels for energy generation. 
  • Extracting and refining fossil fuels to make polyester causes the destruction of natural habitats.

Sourcing virgin cotton 

Sourcing virgin sheep wool (the most common type of wool) 

Sourcing virgin nylon 

  • Making raw materials for nylon from fossil fuels depletes nonrenewable resources
  • Making raw materials for nylon requires significant amounts of energy, which further depletes nonrenewable fossil fuels for energy generation. 
  • Extracting and refining fossil fuels to make nylon causes the destruction of natural habitats
Sourcing Waste to Make Recycled Fabrics Avoid Pollution Caused By Growing or Extracting Virgin Fibers 

Recycling waste to replace virgin fiber sources for fabric-making bypasses the growing or extracting of virgin raw materials, which can be highly polluting. 

The sourcing stage of virgin fibers can be highly polluting, either from agrochemicals used in cultivating natural fibers or from extracting and refining fossil fuels to make synthetic fibers. Such pollution can be avoided by recycling waste instead. 

Where Are the Reclaimed Raw Materials for Recycled Fabrics Usually Sourced From

As mentioned above, recycled fabrics source raw materials from two groups of discarded materials: textile and non-textile waste. 

Where Are Textile Waste for Recycled Fabrics Usually Sourced From

Reclaim discarded fabrics to make recycled fabrics enable circularity in the textile industry. 

Textile waste can be collected before or after being used by a consumer. 

The former type of textile waste (pre-consumer textile waste) can occur at any point during manufacturing and selling. Some examples of these discarded cotton fabrics are: 

  • cutting scraps 
  • semi-finished clothing products
  • returned clothing products 

Pre-consumer textile waste is more straightforward to collect and classify in terms of material, color, and mixing ratios than post-consumer textile waste. 

The latter type of waste (post-consumer textile waste) is generated at consumer’s homes. Some examples of these discarded cotton fabrics are: 

  • garments 
  • upholstery 
  • household items 

Due to wearing and washing, this type of textile waste can become contaminated, weaker in strength, and shorter in fiber length, posing more challenges in sorting. 

While textile waste can be collected around the world, the labor-intensive sorting step often happens where labor is relatively cheap. Thus, sourcing textile waste could involve transportation between far-flung locations, elevating the carbon footprint. 

Using Non-Textile Waste for Recycled Fabrics 

Unlike textile waste, non-textile waste is often used because of its availability. Recycled textile manufacturers can source non-textile waste that is locally abundant and relatively straightforward regarding the sorting process, especially compared to textile waste. 

Here are some examples of non-textile waste and the kind of recycled fabrics made from it:

How Sustainable Is the Manufacturing of Recycled Fabrics

The sustainability of manufacturing recycled fabrics varies depending on the type of recycling. 

Chemical recycling depends on chemicals to retrieve the fibers from the waste before reproducing them, creating hazardous by-products and waste. It is also relatively energy-intensive. However, chemical recycling can retain the original fibers’ properties, enabling unlimited recycling attempts and closing the textile production loop.

Conversely, mechanical recycling doesn’t use toxic chemicals. However, this method of producing recycled fabrics tends to suffer from inferior quality and the limited number of times fibers can be mechanically recycled, making truly circular plastic impossible via the mechanical route. 

In the following sections, we will look into the mechanical and chemical manufacturing processes of recycled fabrics separately to highlight the distinct natures of each method and how they affect the sustainability of recycled fabrics. 

How Sustainable Is the Mechanical Process to Manufacture Recycled Fabrics 

The standard steps in making mechanically recycled fabrics are as follows: 

  1. Collect, sort, and clean: Textile or non-textile waste is collected post-consumer and pre-consumer (or postindustrial), sorted to categorize into groups of materials and remove contaminating objects, and then washed and dried. 
  2. Reprocess fibers:  Depending on the fibers and the factories, fibers can be reprocessed via various steps, including: 
    • cutting
    • shredding
    • tearing
    • grounding 
    • melting
      The mechanical steps of reprocessing fibers are generally harsh: they most likely break and reduce the length of the original fibers.
  3. Make new fabrics from the reprocessed fibers: The reclaimed fibers go through a series of steps before turning into yarns and fabrics. Depending on the fibers and the factory, it can involve some or all of the following:
    • extruding
    • loading
    • stretching 
    • drawing 
    • blending
    • weaving
    • knitting
    • washing
    • drying
    • pressing

Let’s now dive deep into a key sustainable issue of this life-cycle stage.

Producing Mechanically Recycled Fabrics Has Relatively Lower Carbon Emissions 

Manufacturing recycled fabrics tends to require less energy compared to manufacturing virgin counterparts. Here are some examples:

Lower energy consumption contributes to reducing carbon emissions (from burning fossil fuels for energy generation). 

How Sustainable Is the Chemical Process to Manufacture Recycled Fabrics 

The standard steps in making chemically recycled fabrics are as follows: 

  1. Collect, sort, and clean: Textile or non-textile waste is collected post-consumer and pre-consumer (or postindustrial), sorted to categorize into groups of materials and remove contaminating objects, and then washed and dried. 
  2. Reprocess fibers: The sorted and cleaned waste material is dissolved by chemicals to separate and retrieve fibers. 
  3. Make new fabrics from the reprocessed fibers: The reclaimed fibers go through a series of steps before turning into yarns and fabrics. Depending on the fibers and the factory, it can involve some or all of the following:
    1. extruding
    2. loading
    3. stretching 
    4. drawing 
    5. blending
    6. weaving
    7. knitting
    8. washing
    9. drying
    10. pressing

Let’s now dive deep into a few key sustainable issues of this life-cycle stage.

Producing Chemically Recycled Fabrics Depends on Toxic Chemicals 

Chemical recycling requires chemicals (acids and solvents) to dissolve the waste. The type and amount of chemicals depend on the fibers manufactured and the manufacturing processes. However, in many cases, waste from such chemical processes poses environmental and health risks if not treated properly. 

Producing Chemically Recycled Fabrics Is Relatively Energy-Intensive 

Chemical recycling tends to require more energy than the mechanical recycling alternative, such as in the recycling of synthetic fibers. High energy consumption could lead to elevated global warming impacts when manufacturing burns fossil fuels for energy. 

Despite being more energy and chemical-intensive, chemically recycled fibers still tend to have lower environmental impacts than virgin fibers. For example, chemically recycled polyester using a glycolysis process reduces COâ‚‚ emissions by 35% compared to virgin polyester.

Recycled Fabrics Produced Chemically Can Potentially Replicate the Quality of the Original Fabrics

Chemical recycling overcomes many quality problems of mechanical recycling as it can recreate fibers of the original state, closing the textile production loop. 

Where Are Recycled Fabrics Usually Manufactured

Recycled fabric production is spread worldwide, but as with most other types of textiles, the largest producers are in China and India.

One of the main sustainability issues with producing recycled fabrics in China and India is the dependency on fossil fuels for energy generation.

Renewable energy (solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass) can significantly reduce carbon emissions at this manufacturing stage.

How Sustainable Is the Transportation of Recycled Fabrics

Transporting recycled fabrics is generally unsustainable. It can be a carbon-intensive life-cycle stage for clothing and household items made with natural fibers due to the distances covered and emissions associated with transporting vehicles. Recycled fabrics typically travel from various locations to collection hubs, processing factories, then sorting centers, shops, and consumers’ homes before going to recycling centers or landfills. 

In the life-cycle of, for example, recycled polyester clothes and household items, transportation typically occurs as follows:

  • from places where plastic and textile waste is collected, including factories or warehouses (for pre-consumer waste) and donation centers or special containers for used garments (for post-consumer waste), to the polyester fiber manufacturing locations
  • from the recycled polyester fibers and fabrics manufacturing location to the clothing manufacturing location 
  • from the clothing manufacturing location to sorting centers and physical shops 
  • from sorting centers and physical shops to the consumer’s house 
  • from the consumer’s house to the centers for recycling and/or disposal

Traveling Distances of Recycled Fabrics Vary Depending on the Supply Chain

It is not uncommon for recycled fabrics to have their supply chain spreading globally, meaning that collecting, fiber reprocessing, fabric spinning, and clothes manufacturing might happen in various towns, countries, or even continents. 

Here are some scenarios for transporting recycled nylon fabrics

  • Fabric producers might collect plastic waste from factories in Pakistan, transport the waste first to sorting centers in India, then to processing factories in China, and finally to consumer markets in the US. 
  • Used plastic items are collected in the US and Europe and sent to India to be sorted by material after removing nonrecyclable items. Sorted nylon waste is then sent to Italy for manufacturing new recycled nylon household items. Finished recycled nylon products are finally transported around the world, including back to the US, to be sold to consumers. 

You can reduce the transportation carbon footprint by choosing recycled fabrics that travel a shorter distance from the fields and are made closer to your home.

The Carbon Footprint of Transporting Recycled Fabrics Depends Largely on the Vehicle of Transportation 

During its life-cycle, a piece of clothing made with natural fibers can be transported using various types of vehicles, including: 

  • large container ships 
  • planes 
  • freight trains 
  • long-distance trucks 
  • short-distance delivering vans 

There are also various types of transportation vehicles used that have different carbon footprint impacts: 

As a consumer, you can choose not to pick a fast delivery option when ordering clothing items and accessories made with recycled fibers to reduce the carbon footprint of your order.

How Sustainable Is the Usage of Recycled Fabrics

The sustainability of using recycled fabrics varies significantly, from unsustainable (recycled synthetic fabrics) to sustainable (recycled natural fabrics).

Using synthetic fabrics, virgin and recycled alike, is unsustainable mainly because washing synthetic materials during the usage phase contributes to the increasingly serious problem of microplastic presence in marine environments. Additionally, like their virgin counterparts, recycled polyester fabrics or recycled nylon fabrics are generally not breathable. They require frequent washing, thus using a great deal of water and energy. 

Using natural fabrics, virgin and recycled alike, is generally sustainable. Natural materials, like recycled wool and recycled cotton, are usually breathable. They don’t need to be washed frequently—much less often than synthetic fabrics—and thus they save water and energy. Also, washing natural fabrics doesn’t cause microplastics to be released into the environment. 

In general, natural fibers have higher moisture absorption rates than synthetic fibers. Fabrics made with recycled cotton and recycled wool stay fresh longer and require less washing than fabrics made with recycled polyester and recycled nylon. Fewer washes mean less water and energy usage, lowering the environmental impacts. 

Because the usage phase is a main source of energy consumption in the life-cycle of clothing due to washing, drying, and ironing, you can make your use of recycled fabrics more sustainable by modifying some laundering habits. Possible changes include:

  • washing recycled fabrics less often, 
  • switching to line drying instead of using tumble driers, 
  • doing cold washes with appropriate detergents, and
  • using energy-efficient washing machines. 

Another distinction between washing recycled materials made with natural fabrics and recycled materials made with synthetic fabrics is the release of microplastics. Washing the latter leads to microplastics getting into marine environments. At sea or in other water bodies, these microplastics cause harm to fish that ingest them and numerous animals (including us humans) further up the food chain. 

However, studies show that some laundering factors influence microplastic release. As a consumer, you can modify your behaviors to reduce the microplastics coming from washing recycled synthetic fabrics, including: 

How Sustainable Is the End-of-Life of Recycled Fabrics

The sustainability of recycled fabrics’ end-of-life stage depends on the recycled fibers used in manufacturing. 

The end-of-life of recycled fabrics made with synthetic fibers like recycled polyester or recycled nylon is unsustainable. These materials are not biodegradable. 

The end-of-life of natural-based recycled fabrics like recycled wool or recycled cotton is generally sustainable. These materials are biodegradable and can be disposed of by composting, incinerating, and landfilling. 

Let’s look at the two most common reclaimed fibers for recycled fabrics: polyester and cotton

Traditional fossil-based polyester is not biodegradable: this material could take up to 300 years to degrade completely. Conversely, cotton is fully biodegradable: it typically takes one week to five months to decompose. 

Cotton can also be composted to return nutrients to the soil, which is not the case with polyester. 

How Circular Are Products Made of Recycled Fabrics

In the textile industry, a circular economy is designed to keep products and materials in use for as long as possible, especially through reusing and recycling. It also covers regenerating natural systems that support the industry and reducing polluted waste released into such systems.

“The circular economy is a systems solution framework that tackles global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution.”

Ellen MacArthur Foundation

As a whole, the textile industry is almost linear: 97% of the input is new resource.

Recycling textile waste is often a complicated and expensive process. The challenges include:

  • labor-intensive sorting process 
  • long transportation distances between collection hubs and sorting facilities
  • complex and energy-demanding processes to deconstruct fiber blends

These challenges remove the incentive to recycle textile waste and close the loop of textile production. 

Consequently, many recycled fabrics are based on non-textile waste, including post-consumer water bottles or discarded fishing nets. This recycling route breaks the circularity of, for example, plastic bottle production—which is well established. 

How Can You Buy Recycled Fabrics More Sustainably

The key to sustainably buying recycled products is to check on relevant environmental and original certifications. 

  • Recycled Claim Standard (RCS): The Textile Exchange RCS was originally developed as an international, voluntary standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of Recycled input and chain of custody. 
  • The Global Recycled Standard (GRS): The Global Recycled Standard (GRS) is an international, voluntary, full product standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of Recycled Content, chain of custody, social and environmental practices, and chemical restrictions. It can be used for any product with more than 20% recycled material. 
  • STeP by OEKO-TEX®: STeP by OEKO-TEX® is an independent certification system for brands, retailers, and manufacturers from the textile and leather industry. It communicates organizational environmental measures, including reducing carbon footprint and water usage. 
  • OEKO-TEX®: OEKO-TEX® labels aim to ensure that products pose no risk to human health (i.e. containing banned chemicals).

Some certifications that are signaling brands’ efforts toward lowered environmental impacts and a circular economy are: 

  • B Corp Certification: The label B Corp is a certification reserved for for-profit companies. Certified holders are assessed on their social and environmental impacts. 
  • Cradle2Cradle certification: Cradle2Cradle provides a standardized approach to material circularity. It assesses whether products have been suitably designed and made with the circular economy in mind covering five critical categories: material health, material reuse, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness.

Where to Buy Sustainable Recycled Fabrics 

As we have established throughout the life-cycle assessment, the sustainability of recycled fabrics varies depending on the recycled fibers and how they are recycled. 

If you want to look for recycled fabrics on the upper end of the sustainability ladder, here are some options: 

  • recycled fabrics made with reclaimed organic fibers such as organic cotton and organic wool
  • recycled fabrics made in locations with high shares of renewable energy

If you search for sustainable natural fabric manufacturers, make sure they are transparent about the following:

  • energy usage (volume and source) in manufacturing 
  • chemical usage and disposal treatments in manufacturing 

As a consumer, you can look for these indicators when buying clothing items made with recycled fabrics.

Regardless, we have put together a list of brands using recycled fabrics. This list is in alphabetical order. 

Why Is It Important to Buy Products Made of More Sustainable Fabrics

It is important to buy products made of more sustainable fabrics because a sustainable textile industry has a lower carbon footprint, helps save natural resources, and is better for forests, animals, and humans. 

Buying Sustainable Fabrics Reduces Your Carbon Footprint 

The production of clothing and footwear is estimated to contribute 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions—more than all international flights and shipping combined. If the fashion industry were a country, it would be the fourth largest emitter of carbon dioxide

One way to reduce the carbon footprint of the clothes you buy is to opt for sustainable fabrics. Sustainable fabrics, which are often made with natural or recycled fibers, have relatively low carbon footprints compared to petroleum-based fabrics. For example, organic cotton made in the US has a carbon footprint of 2.35 kg CO2 (per ton of spun fiber)—a quarter of polyester’s carbon footprint. 

Buying Sustainable Fabrics Reduces Demand for Natural Resources and Waste Management

The textile industry uses water and land to grow cotton and other fibers. It is estimated that 79 billion cubic meters of water were used for the sector worldwide in 2015. For example, producing a single cotton t-shirt requires as much water as one person drinks for 2.5 years (2,700 liters of fresh water).

Worse yet, the textile economy is vastly more linear than circular: the largest amount of resources used in clothes ended up in landfills (instead of being recycled to remake clothes). According to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation,

  • Less than 3% of materials used in the textile economy in 2015 came from recycled sources.
  • In other words, more than 97% of resources used in making clothes are newly extracted. 

When clothing items are disposed of within a short period of time—under a year in the case of half of the fast fashion clothes—the natural systems that provide raw materials for fabrics don’t have enough time to recover and regenerate, which could lead to ecological breakdown. 

Sustainable fabrics are made with less water and emissions while lasting longer:

  • Because they are durable, you don’t need to buy new clothes too often. 
  • Thus, you help reduce the pressure to extract more resources for making new items. 

Similarly, making and consuming sustainable fabrics made with recycled materials reduces the demand for virgin materials while helping tackle waste management. 

Buying Sustainable Fabrics Encourages Sustainable Management of Forests

Sustainable plant-based fabrics are made with raw materials from forests and plantations that are sustainably managed, such as complying with FSC standards

When you buy sustainable plant-based fabrics, you discourage unsustainable forestry practices like illegal logging. You can help reduce deforestation, biodiversity loss, and the effects of climate change. 

Buying Sustainable Fabrics Encourages Fairer Treatment of Animals 

The fashion industry is rife with animal mistreatment when it comes to making animal-based fabrics like wool or silk. Every year, billions of animals suffer and die for clothing and accessories.

Buying sustainable vegan alternatives can help to reduce the pressure on raising more and more animals to meet the demand for animal-based fabrics while sacrificing their well-being and lives. 

Suppose you have to buy fabrics made with, for example, wool or silk; make sure you only choose brands committed to cruelty-free products. In that case, you help advocate better treatments for animals raised within the textile industry. 

Using Sustainable Fabrics Encourages Fairer Treatment of Textile Workers 

Recent statistics from UNICEF estimated as many as 170 million child laborers worldwide, many of whom were engaged in some form of work in the textile industry. They don’t get paid minimum wages and often work long hours. 

When you buy sustainable fabrics from brands transparent about the working conditions at their factories, you discourage the use of child labor and help promote better working conditions for textile workers.

Final Thoughts

Recycled fabrics are generally sustainable, yet their environmental impacts vary depending on the reclaimed fiber and the recycling method. 

In general, manufacturing recycled fabrics with discarded materials reduces waste, lessens pressure on natural resources, and demands relatively less energy. 

However, recycled fabrics made with recycled fossil-based plastic fibers (polyester, nylon) still release microplastic while in use and clog up landfills at the end of their life as they are not biodegradable. 

To make your purchases of recycled fabrics more sustainable, follow these steps: 

  1. Buy second-hand when possible.
  2. While using recycled fabrics, maximize the number of wear between washes, adopt environmentally friendly laundering habits, and keep the items for as long as possible. 
  3. When you’re done with your recycled fabrics, upcycle the material to extend its usage and arrange for it to be recycled or properly disposed of. 

Stay impactful,



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