Textile waste that comes from the garment production is often discarded in landfills or into applications of lower value. Transforming this ‘pre-consumer’ textile waste into valuable fibers, yarn, and fabrics is becoming increasingly important as the global fashion industry turns toward greater responsibility in using sustainable materials.
On the 28 June, during a seminar in Monastir, the United Nations Development Organization (UNIDO) launched two pilot projects, that for the coming year, will demonstrate, under the EU-funded SwitchMed programme, the potential for recycling pre-consumer textile waste in Tunisia.
“Business models that can retain the value of materials in the local value-chain at a good cost-price basis are necessary to boost closed-loop production models in the textile and fashion industry,” says Roberta De Palma, Chief Technical Adviser at UNIDO.
Under the SwitchMed programme, UNIDO works with the government in Tunisia, the Tunisian Textile and Clothing Federation (FTTH), international fashion brands and their local suppliers to support the uptake of business models that can better valorise pre-consumer waste streams from Tunisia’s textile and clothing industry.
The OTB Group, a global Italian fashion and luxury hub and the parent company of brands such as Diesel, Jil Sander, Maison Margiela, Marni and Viktor&Rolf, is collaborating with UNIDO to improve the environmental performance along DIESEL’s supply chain in Tunisia.
“We need to start producing with what we already have, recovering existing materials and implementing a circular approach,” says Andrea Rosso, Sustainability Ambassador of DIESEL. “At Diesel we believe that there is a great value in collaborating with like-minded partners and suppliers to reduce the dependency on virgin resources recognising that waste should instead be treated as a valuable raw material. Our collaboration with UNIDO and with Diesel’s Tunisian suppliers constitutes a milestone within our For Responsible Living Strategy and our commitments towards more responsible consumption and circularity.”
In the first pilot project, Diesel collaborating with local denim suppliers will demonstrate how local recycling can reduce the carbon footprint of denim production, in the pursuit of a net-zero carbon footprint perspective. The demonstration will valorize higher quality textile cutting waste into a closed-loop fashion cycle and the lower quality to other end users. The objective is to improve waste management practices in the production, to improve segregation of waste qualities, and to pilot textile-to-textile mechanical recycling of 100% cotton or cotton-rich waste in Tunisia.
According to a recently published project study the pre-consumer textile waste from Tunisia’s textile and clothing industry is estimated to amount to 31,000 tons per year, of which 55% is classified as cutting waste. Repurposing this waste into valuable raw materials could reduce the environmental impact of the fashion sector, especially in terms of water and carbon footprint and hazardous chemicals in agriculture, by substituting virgin with recycled textile fibers.
In the second pilot project, UNIDO will work with Bébé Chbil, a manufacturer of knitwear products, to set up better segregation practices for knitting waste. The objective is to increase the amount of textile waste reaching the recycling market in Tunisia, especially waste with high-quality content, to improve the profitability for recycling pre-consumer textile waste in Tunisia’s textile value chain.
Initial results from both pilot projects are expected for mid-2023.
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