Recycled cotton can be generally defined as converting cotton fabric into cotton fiber that can be reused in textile products.
Most of recycled cotton sources is produced through pre-consumer waste, such as cutting scraps. Post-consumer waste is more difficult to sort through due to various color shades, fabric blends, and it is generally a more labor-intensive process.
The majority of recycled cotton is claimed through mechanical recycling: first, fabrics and materials are sorted by color and after sorting, the fabrics are shreds into yarn and further into raw fiber. This process is harsh and puts a great deal of strain on the fiber, this is why cotton must be blended with other fibers to be made into new yarn for strength and durability, and therefore cannot continuously be recycled.
The pioneering REFIBRA™ technology involves upcycling cotton scraps from garment production: the technology gives a second life to pre and post consumer sources, which would otherwise be send to landfills or incinerated.
The cotton scraps are transformed into cotton pulp. A substantial proportion of this – up to one third – is added to wood pulp, and the combined raw material is transformed to produce new virgin TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers to make fabrics and garments.
By being able to use discarded garments consisting of a wider range of materials it is possible to enlarge the raw material basis for textile recycling. This innovation is a groundbreaking step towards tackling the global issue of textile waste disposal. At the same time it reduces the extraction of wood as a raw material and relieves the pressure on global forest ecosystems.