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AMSTERDAM – A new report has tracked textile waste across India, a huge global end destination for used fashion. 700 stakeholders in the Indian textile waste ecosystem, including manufacturers, brands, recyclers, waste handlers and sorters were consulted for the report. Published by Fashion for Good, it estimates that around 8.5 per cent of global textile waste is accumulated in India every year.

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59 per cent of this waste finds its way back into the textile industry through reuse and recycling but only a fraction makes it back into the global supply chain “due to quality and visibility challenges.” The remainder is downcycled (19 per cent), incinerated (5 per cent) or ends up in a landfill (17 per cent).

The report identifies key textile waste manufacturing locations across 10 states in India, the three largest recycling locations being Panipat, Amroha, Tamil Nadu.

It argues that India has a well-networked textile waste value chain, enabling transfer of waste across the country. “However, the lack of traceability systems, excessive cost competitiveness, limited infrastructure to process certain waste types, and worker wellbeing concerns has limited the potential of a circular value chain,” the report states.

“Traceable and higher quality feedstock is required to meet the demands of advanced recycling technologies being adopted across the industry.”

The report says that, “to realise the full potential of textile waste in India and achieve circularity, various bottlenecks need to be overcome.”

The report talks a lot about circularity, a bugbear of ours given that circularity simply does not exist in the fashion industry; recycling (with one further use) is a much better and more accurate phrase.

It adds: “This study is a first-of-its-kind attempt to fill the data gaps that exist in the textile waste landscape in India and help the ecosystem players to orchestrate actions and devise solutions and interventions accordingly. It presents information on the extent of textile waste being generated in India and the complexity of the textile waste value chain processing it, by presenting evidence from both primary and secondary research.

“To date, [India’s textile waste] value chain remains largely unorganised with limited visibility, leading to leakage of waste at multiple levels. There has been minimal external support for technological advancement and process standardisation.

“Consequently, the recycled yarn produced is of low quality and is deemed unfit for the global supply chain. This, coupled with the stiff competition from inexpensive synthetic fibres, is limiting the economic growth and viability of the recycling industry in India.

“The growing need of circularity in the textile industry globally provides India with a unique opportunity to leverage existing infrastructure and resources to emerge as a leading circular sourcing region.”

This study was commissioned as part of Fashion for Good’s Sorting for Circularity; India Project.

This project was launched in October 2021 by Fashion for Good supported by project partners including Laudes Foundation as catalytic funder, PVH Corp., adidas, Levi Strauss & Co., TESCO, Target, Primark, Arvind Limited, Birla Cellulose and Welspun India and technology partner Reverse Resources.

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