What is end-of-life textile?

Concepts

End-of-life textile is unnecessary textile for its owner, including textile waste and textiles that have been used but are undamaged, i.e. textile products. Textile products can be used for their original intended uses. Unsorted end-of-life textiles are waste.

Post-consumer textiles are household waste whose management is the municipality’s responsibility.

Reuse means using a previously used product or a part of it in its original intended use.

Remanufacturing means using a previously used product or a part of it in the manufacturing of a new product.

Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into products or materials for their original or other use.

Textile industry’s environmental impact 

The textile industry is estimated to be the world’s second most polluting industry after oil, and the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply. All stages of textile manufacturing have a substantial environmental impact.

Cotton and polyester are the most popular textile fibres. Every year, approximately 105 million tonnes of polyester and 20 million tonnes of cotton are produced. Approximately 100 billion items of clothing are produced each year.

The textile industry mostly uses non-renewable resources, including oils in fibre production, fertilizers and pesticides in growing cotton, and chemicals in dye production and textile finishing.

It takes approximately 2,700 litres of water to make one T-shirt. In addition to water consumption, the textile industry generates a large amount of wastewater, and the purification processes are insufficient in many textile-producing countries.

A textile item’s average life varies depending on the product and user. According to reports, textile products are used approximately 160 times. If the number of times a garment was worn were doubled, greenhouse gas emissions would decrease by 40 percent.

Finland generates approximately 70–100 million kilos of textile waste each year, meaning 13–18 kilograms of textiles per person. It is difficult to obtain specific data on the amounts, and the numbers are based on estimates. Due to today’s throwaway culture, Finns spend 3.4 billion euros on new clothing and household textiles each year.

End-of-life textile as a waste component

Unlike many other separately collected waste components, such as metal or glass, textiles are prone to absorb odours and to be damaged by humidity. Odours and dirt are the most common factors damaging textiles.

End-of-life textiles include many organic materials, which makes them prone to damage. Mould can easily appear on textiles due to damp conditions or if the textiles are stored when damp. Damp, mouldy, or strongly odorous textiles are not allowed in the end-of-life textile collection. At worst, they can spoil a large batch of surrounding textiles.

Additionally, many insects, such as fur beetles and moths, thrive in textiles. Textiles stored in attics or poor conditions attract mice.