Köhler, A. et al.Circular economy perspectives in the EU textile sector


Autorinnen und Autoren:
Andreas Köhler, David Watson, Steffen Trzepacz, Clara Löw, Ran Liu, Jennifer Danneck, Antonios Konstantas, Shane Donatello & Giorgia Faraca


Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, EUR 30734 EN

This study aims to provide information about circular economy perspectives in the management of textile products and textile waste in the European Union (EU). The report improves the understanding of current value chains in the manufacturing and retailing of apparel products in the EU and provides a detailed picture of material flows in the EU textile sector in a global context. This includes an overview of the size of the textile processing industry in the EU in terms of turnover, employment, number and size of companies, and the EU's share of the global industry. Then, an accurate picture is drawn of the volume (tons) and value (Euros) of new fibres, yarns, fabrics and textile products (apparel and household textiles) produced in the EU and traded with the rest of the world. This is complemented by a detailed look at the volumes of post-consumer textiles available for collection, reuse and recycling in EU countries, based on available data. This mapping serves as a preview of the upcoming challenges associated with the increased collection and processing of post-consumer textiles, foreseen as a result of mandatory obligations for the separate collection of textile waste in 2025. Furthermore, it identifies needs for planning the new fibre-to-fibre recycling capacity.

This study also provides information on current industrial practice in the EU for the collection, sorting and preparation of post-consumer textiles for reuse and recycling. Both currently installed and emerging technologies for the recycling of textile fabrics and apparel are mapped in order to provide a snapshot of the state of the art of available technologies that are expected to cope with the increased amount of textile waste towards 2025. The study details existing capacities for the collection and sorting of old textiles in Europe, and describes recycling technologies that are at a relatively high technological maturity level in order to estimate future sorting and recycling capacities. In order to minimize overlaps with an ongoing study commissioned by DG GROW about textile recycling technologies, the review of recycling technologies in this study mainly focuses on the core principles of each technology type and provides examples of that technology type in operation. On this basis, the challenges that exist with regard to the sorting and recycling technologies in terms of achieving a more circular economy will be addressed.

With regard to the perspectives of the circular economy in the textile sector, the study collects and examines established and newly emerging circular business models that have the potential to make the value chain for the European textile and clothing market and the post-consumer textiles sector more circular. Knowledge on existing and emerging practices of repair, reuse and recycling of textile products is presented and analyzed with a view to ascertaining how these activities can contribute to increasing the circular economy in the EU. This provides a basis for identifying which options show the greatest potential, and for understanding which policy interventions, if any, could help shift the textile sector towards increased circularity. The study concludes with an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of the textiles production and consumption system in two scenarios:

1) the prevalence of a linear economy model and
2) a projected circular economy scenario.

On this basis, the opportunities for and threats to the current textile sector, including the post-consumer textile collection, sorting, reuse and recycling industries, are examined in their entirety. Existing and emerging circular economy models are analyzed in the same way.

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