The recycling of textiles is a relevant issue. One of the reasons for this is the EU directive that comes into effect on 2025. The directive imposes the separate collection of post-consumer textile waste. In Finland, the separate collection of textiles will begin already in 2023. When the end-of-life textiles are separated from mixed waste for recycling, there will need to be uses for them. Given its characteristics, there are many alternatives to recycled fibre. Recycled fibre is suitable for raw material of new textile products such as yarn and fabrics but it is also good for various nonwoven fabric products such as insulation. In addition, fibre can be used, for example, in packaging materials and composites.


“Basically, recycled textile fibres can be used in the same way as textile fibres”, Marja Rissanen, Textile Material Specialist at Aalto University says.

Even now, recycled fibre has many different uses – both in clothing industry as well as, for example, in automotive industry. The use of recycled fibre is expected to increase significantly in Europe when the separate collection of textiles comes into effect. According to Rissanen, recycled fibre should be primarily made into long-lasting products that will replace virgin material. In terms of climate change, this applies particularly to textile materials and fibres whose carbon footprint is extensive. These include, for example, wool as well as synthetic fibres made from petroleum such as polyamide. Thus, the use of recycled fibre is supported not only by the many uses it has and the EU directive of the separate collection of textiles but also by the sustainability demands of consumers.


“Recycling is discussed more and more. Consumers are all the more aware that products contain recycled materials”, Rissanen remarks. At the end-of-life textile refinement plant of Rester Ltd. in Paimio, end-of-life textiles and textile side streams of companies go through a mechanical recycling process. In the process, textiles are shredded and hard parts and lumps are removed, after which textiles are opened into a new fibre that slightly reminds of cotton wool. The final result depends, for example, on the material and its colours and the used chemicals that are fed into the refinement plant. However, it is possible to have an effect on this as well as on the length of the fibre with recycled materials and during the recycling process. Henna Knuutila, the person in charge of customer relationships at Rester Ltd., emphasises that the final product will be designed together with the buyer of fibre in order to create the most suitable end result for them.


Despite the benefits of recycled material, its price that is occasionally higher than that of the virgin fibre, slows down its use. According to Knuutila, environmental impacts of virgin textile materials should be taken into account in their price. Rissanen says that one should always see the saving of virgin material as a better option. Mechanically recycled fibre is environmentally friendly and its use supports companies in achieving their environmental goals with regard to greenhouse gases as well as water consumption.


“This will create huge impacts”, Knuutila encourages.