25. September 2014 · Comments Off on Closed-Loop Textile Recycling: What It Is and Why It Matters · Categories: Fiber news and events, Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

Yesterday, an article by Cyndi Rhoades entitled There is more to closed-loop textile recycling than technological innovation was posted to The Guardian.  I recently read Overdressed:  The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline (my belated review of this 2012 book will appear in a subsequent post) and it both confirmed my observations about the current state of the textile industry and alarmed me.  Part of the reason that I pursue rag-weaving and using recycled fibers is because of what I perceive as a deplorable undervaluing and underappreciation of the societal and environmental costs of textile production.  However, I have always felt that the biggest obstacle to true change is finding a way to re-make textiles in a way that is widely appealing, as opposed to making a statement.

Rhoades explains in her article that the technology for truly recycling textiles (breaking them down into fibers that can be completely remade from the spinning stage forward) is now in development, and is perhaps already on the horizon.  This would mean that the new textiles would be of the same quality as the originals (which has not been attempted so far by makers of recycled yarns) and greatly reduce the need for new fibers to be grown and manufactured.  Rhoades correctly identifies that perhaps the biggest problem will be in educating the public on the value of their used textiles so that they participate in recycling programs, because the monetary cost of textiles is so far off from their true cost in terms of resources.

Those of us in the weaving community already know and appreciate the value of textiles, at least as far as our own production goes.  For me, weaving made me question the inexpensive prices associated with cloth and finished textiles like clothing.  The market is flooded with garments so inexpensive that anyone who makes cloth or sews knows that it isn’t possible for them to be so cheaply priced without someone, somewhere in the production stream, being badly cheated.  It could be the worker in the garment factory or the people and animals using water downstream from a dyeing facility.

If true textile recycling is indeed in our future, weavers and other fiber artists should be among the first to support this new technology.  Educating people about the true cost of textiles, after all, is a vital part of educating them about the true value of our own work.