The global textile and clothing industry needs to find new business models to reduce its environmental impact and respond to global resource shortages. Recycling pre-consumer textile waste, which is waste generated from the production process, such as cutting waste, ‘deadstock,’ ‘out-of-spec’ products, could help to put materials longer into use and reduce waste. However, the amount, type and quality of pre-consumer textile waste generated from Egypt’s textile and clothing industry is unknown.
To address this information gap, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) commissioned, as part of the EU-funded SwitchMed/MED TEST III project, a mapping survey on the textile waste value chain (post-industrial and pre-consumption) in Egypt. In 2021, 46 companies operating in the textile and clothing sector were surveyed by Blumine and Reverse Resources to estimate the volumes of waste generated by the textile and clothing industry in Egypt by fiber, quality, sector and region.
On 31 January, the findings from this survey were presented to over 100 participants from Egypt’s textile and clothing industry at a seminar in Cairo. The study reveals that Egypt’s industries generate over 212,000 tons of pre-consumer textile waste per year, out of which 80,000 tons are of 100% cotton and 28,000 tons are classified as ‘cotton-rich’ waste.
According to Maxime Bourland from Reverse Resources: “The high percentage of cotton in the textile waste is good news, as this is by far the most demanded textile waste and with a very high recycling potential.”
In 2019, Egypt’s textile and clothing sector had a negative trade balance, importing more raw materials than its export figure. The waste mapping study explains how most of Egypt’s pre-consumer cotton waste is exported or downgraded for low-value applications. Recycling some of this waste could reduce Egypt’s dependency on imported short-fibre cotton.
“We have very good ‘waste material’ to work within Egypt. With the right structure, the right industry around a circular economy approach, we have a chance to generate value from this waste,” says Maxime Bourland.
One advantage that pre-consumer textile waste has over the textiles collected from consumers (post-consumer textile waste) is that it is easier to gather, sort and process. According to the study, 50% of the annually generated pre-consumer textile waste in Egypt comes from a cluster of industries located within a radius of 150 km. This concentration supports a better collection, synergies and reduces logistics costs, which often is a critical cost factor in the recycling process of textile waste.
The next phase of the MED TEST III project in Egypt will launch two industry pilots to explore the feasibility, challenges, and opportunities to recycle pre-consumer textile waste on an industrial scale. The first pilot will focus on reviewing and adapting innovative technologies for mechanical and chemical recycling applied to the context of Egypt. A second pilot will demonstrate ways to improve the business eco-system for recycling pre-consumer textile waste to ensure a reliable and consistent supply that can meet the growing demand for sustainable and recycled textiles by international brands
“This project that we are currently working with you on falls directly within the first pillar of our circularity definition, which is ‘made with safe and renewable materials.’ We want garments that should be made with low-impact materials that prioritize recycled and recyclable inputs,” says Yusra El Esir, Manager for Corporate Responsibility at the PVH Group.
The outcomes from the pilots will support the project objective to lay down the foundation for a local recycling value chain and prepare the textile supply chain in Egypt to meet consumer preferences and requirements for sustainable products.
The textile waste value chain mapping study was realized with support from the Industrial Modernization Center, the Industrial Development Authority, the Apparel Export Council of Egypt, and Egypt Textiles and Home Textiles Export Council.
Click here to retrieve the complete SwitchMed/MED TEST III Textile waste mapping study in Egypt.
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