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China Aiming to Recycle 25 Percent of Textile Waste by 2025

A triad of Chinese government agencies said this week that the country aims to recycle 25 percent of all its textile waste and produce 2 million tons of recycled fiber by 2025 as part of an effort to reduce carbon emissions by 2030 and become carbon-neutral by 2060.

A document jointly released by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the Ministry of Commerce said China said the country hopes to greatly increase its recycling capability and have a waste textile recycling system in place by 2025. By 2030, China, considered the world’s largest textile manufacturing country, wants to have in place a system to achieve a recycling rate of 30 percent for waste textiles producing 3 million tons of recycled fiber.

“With the continuous improvement in people’s living standards, more and more used clothing [is being put to waste], and the problem of recycling textile waste has become increasingly prominent,” Zhao Kai, vice-chairman of the China Association of Circular Economy, said in a statement on the NDRC’s website.

An article in the South China Morning Post said in 2020 that China produced around 22 million tons of textile waste and had a recycling rate of around 20 percent, according to the NDRC. Around 1.5 million tons of recycled fiber was produced from textile waste that year.

Efforts highlighted in the document include promoting green and low-carbon production in the textile industry, improving China’s recycling network and promoting the comprehensive use of textile waste. Awareness among producers and consumers of the importance of recycling was also expected to be significantly raised by 2030.

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Sun Huaibin, vice president of China Textile Industry Federation, said in the announcement that the construction of a recycling system of waste materials is of “great significance to enhance the ability of resource security and will help promote the development of green and low-carbon recycling.

“The implementation…will play an important role in improving the utilization efficiency of textile industry resources, promoting the construction of ecological civilization and helping to achieve the goal of carbon peak carbon neutralization,” Huabin said. “China is the largest textile and clothing producer and consumer in the world. The total fiber consumption is about 30 million tons per year and the per capita fiber consumption is about 22.4 kilograms…resulting in a large number of waste textiles. Due to the constraints of system mechanisms, recycling systems, sorting methods, technology and standards, the main raw materials of recycled fiber in China are PET bottle pieces and industrial textile waste.”

Huaibin said it is urgent to improve the recycling rate of waste textiles and the output of recycled fibers in China, build a recycling system of waste textile resources and promote the development of related industries. In addition, he noted that right now, 80 percent of textiles are chemical fiber products that cannot be naturally degraded.

“Therefore, the recycling of waste textiles can play a positive role in saving resources such as oil and land,  and protecting the environment,” Huabin added. “At the same time, it can solve the problem of idle waste of old clothes and fabrics in people’s homes.”

This involves four key areas. First is to improve the recycling network and increase the amount of recycling by construction of sorting and resource utilization classification processing centers. The second is to strengthen government guidance and increase policy support. The China Textile Federation, together with industry and enterprises, has jointly built a “resource saving and green consumption platform” to actively promote the construction of a circular economy system in the textile industry and carry out the construction of an “information platform for waste textile recycling and recycling” with relevant research institutions and enterprises, and strengthened the statistical analysis of waste textile recycling data by integrating the sources and quantity of waste textiles.

Third is to speed up scientific and technological innovation and improve standards and norms. Huaibin said the China Textile Federation will conscientiously implement the requirements of the initiative, cooperate with relevant departments to recommend the advanced processes, technologies and equipment for the comprehensive utilization of waste textile resources, strengthen the industrial transformation of recycled polyester staple fiber, filament melt blown and recycled cellulose fiber technologies, improve the high-value utilization level of waste textiles and expand the application field of recycled fibers.

Lastly is to publicize and educate the public and industry recycling waste textiles into schools and communities, and focusing on the new orientation of “science and technology, fashion and green” in the textile and garment industry. To that end, the China Textile Federation will organize and carry out a series of publicity and practice activities, such as “zero abandonment of old clothes,” a green challenge sustainable fashion innovation design competition and  brand joint initiative activities to encourage enterprises to use recycled fiber, transmit sustainable fashion concept, and promote green and sustainable development of the industry.