The usual textile recycling chain includes:

  • Collection
  • Sorting
  • Sales rewearable clothes
  • Processing non rewearable clothes and textiles

Clothing collection is organized by a number of commercial and charity organizations. Reshare (Salvation Army), KICI, Humana and SAM are the biggest collectors in The Netherlands. These organizations sell the collected clothes to sorting companies in The Netherlands and abroad.

In the Netherlands, approximately 80,000 tonnes of clothing is collected in this way (while at least another 140,000 tons is not collected, as revealed by a recent study (2010)).

Clothing sorting companies examine the quality of the materials collected and separate them in several categories of wearable clothing and other fractions of non-wearable materials. They may end up with 200 different fractions of sorted textiles which have to find their way in the international second hand textile trade.

The re-wearable clothing is sold to thrift shops (small percentage) and to countries in Eastern Europe, Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh) and Africa.
The non re-wearable clothing is processed into a wide range of products such as cleaning cloths, mops, blankets and insulation materials.

A nice overview of this chain can be seen in a film by De Boer Group, a large clothing sorting company in the Netherlands.

Industrial textile processing
The collection of textile industrial waste is usually done by waste handlers. A large percentage of this waste is incinerated and used for the production of heat and electricity (thermal recycling). A smaller fraction of the waste is unraveled, and the regained fibers are used again in nonwovens for insulation purposes.