Good news! This month Enviu partnered up with Sympany to innovate the garment recycling industry in India. Our team of business developers is currently collaborating on several business concepts. Now what are we actually talking about when we speak of the garment recycling industry in India? What is the current status of garment recycling? And why is it necessary to innovate the market? In this article some more insights.
Probably when you have any older siblings, as a kid you were used to wear hand- me-downs of your older brother or sister. A widespread custom in Western countries. Despite the good intentions to reuse our clothing, we still throw away a lot of reusable or recyclable clothing. Now what numbers are we talking about? And what happens with the clothing after we dispose it in one of the destined clothing drop off points?
Clothing waste in Europe
Of the 5.8 million tons of fabric waste Europeans discard every year, only about 25% is recycled. After clothing is collected, reusable clothing is separated from damaged clothing that is no longer wearable. Warm reusable clothing is sent to Eastern European countries and reusable (light) summer clothing is sent to African countries. The rest is sent on big bulk transport ships to countries like India and Bangladesh.
Indians are superstars when it comes to recycling
When it comes to recycling, India is the world’s superstar. According to a report published by Columbia University, India’s recycling rate is around 56% in larger cities. Another interesting thing is that Indians also generate way less waste than we do. Each person in the EU on average generates more than a kilo of waste a day. In India, an estimated 0,37 kilogram of waste is generated per person per day.
Especially when it comes to clothing, Indians are far more sustainable than people living in the West. Clothes aren’t discarded, unless they’re literally falling apart. Indians master the art of recycling, and create big business out of it. The country imports around 7.5 million tonnes of scrap annually. Recycling is mostly carried out largely by the informal sector. A big group of people living in the Bottom of the Pyramid, make their living from sorting, demounting and selling resources from waste.
In Panipat yearly 100.000 tons of discarded clothing is recycled
Most of the imported discarded clothing (100.000 tons) ends up in Panipat, a city 90km north of Delhi. This city is the world’s largest textile recycling hub with 300 active recycling mills. Big shacks are loaded with secondhand clothes. An existing team of women slices off the buttons, zips and shoulder packs, empties pockets and discards brand labels.
Next, the clothing is shredded to pulp which is thereafter spun into yarn. This recycled yarn is woven into poor quality cloth and blankets for the domestic market (85%) and for export (15%). Panipat supplies over 90% of the shoddy-wool relief blankets bought by international aid agencies for use in global disasters.
The current system based on downcycling needs to be innovated
Whether it’s in Panipat, or any other city in India, the current system enables us to reuse a part of the clothing we throw away but, on the one hand presupposes bad working conditions for the people working in this business, and on the other hand is a form of downcycling. You can never retrieve the original value of clothing in this way, never mind increasing the value of clothing. Now the latter is a true challenge, that Enviu and Sympany would love to face.
Better working conditions, more value out of garment waste, now let’s co-create on this challenge! Do you have any great ideas? Leave your comments below!