A Carbon Footprint of Textile Recycling: A Case Study in Sweden
Journal article, 2015
Global population growth and rising living standards are increasing apparel consumption.
Consequently, consumption of resources and generation of textile waste are increasing.
According to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, textile consumption increased
by 40% between the years 2000 and 2009 in Sweden. Given that there is currently no textile
recycling plant in Sweden, the aim of this article is to explore the potential environmental
benefits of various textile recycling techniques and thereby direct textile waste management
strategies toward more sustainable options. Three different recycling techniques for a model
waste consisting of 50% cotton and 50% polyester were identified and a life cycle assessment
(LCA) was made to assess the environmental performance of them. The recycling processes
are: material reuse of textile waste of adequate quality; separation of cellulose from polyester
using N-methylmorpholine-N-oxide as a solvent; and chemical recycling of polyester. These
are compared to incineration, representing conventional textile waste treatment in Sweden.
The results show that incineration has the highest global warming potential and primary
energy usage. The material reuse process exhibits the best performance of the studied
systems, with savings of 8 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO
-eq) and 164 gigajoules
(GJ) of primary energy per tonne of textile waste. Sensitivity analyses showed that results
are particularly sensitive to the considered yields of the processes and to the choice of
replaced products. An integration of these recycling technologies for optimal usage of their
different features for treatment of 1 tonne of textile waste shows that 10 tonnes CO
and 169 GJ of primary energy could be saved.
Global warming potential (GWP)
Life cycle assessment (LCA)