How Is Clothing Recycled?

In this article we shall talk about recycling of clothes, the truth, the myth and the greenwashing.

The heading of this blog post is a very thought provoking one. Have you noticed that there is a trend now of brands promoting their sustainable collections by using fabric made out of recycled PET bottles? Most of the brands speak very high of sustainability now and how they are slowly moving to a sustainable model. But the reality is different.


Let’s get straight to it. The percentage of total PET bottles recycled for various purposes including clothing is around 29-32%. Now, compare this with less than 1% recycling rate for clothing.

If less than 1% are recycled just imagine what happens to the rest of the clothing. Why aren’t brands recycling discarded clothes?

It is high time we take this seriously. Most of our life we don’t bother about trash once it is picked up from our homes. They lay in landfills where for artificial fabrics it takes 400-1000 years for the garments to decompose.

We need to ask ourselves as to how we define sustainability. Claiming that a product is manufactured using recycled PET bottles doesn’t make a brand sustainable. Sustainability is a circular process. The very fact that less than 1% age of clothing is recycled sends an alarming message to those who blindly believe brands in their sustainability pitch.  

 rPET bottle recycled clothing


  • There is a huge dearth of infrastructure and limitations in recycling garments. The use of blended fabrics, prints, dyes, threads all contribute to a complicated process of sorting and recycling garments. Therefore, with highly blended fabrics and unnatural dyes it becomes close to impossible to sort and recycle the products.
  • There is also another problem, the problem of quality. In this world of fast fashion, price and design are the two most driving factors for a customer to purchase. Shorter lead times, increased demand have made low-quality, low-priced clothing the driving force for the fashion industry. Since the quality of clothing is poor it makes it that much tougher to recycle it back into good or similar quality clothing.
  • Then there is also the issue of microplastics which is equally important but unfortunately hasn’t hit the headlines as much as we had hoped for. Garments made of recycled PET bottles release microplastics into the water every time they are washed. 


Now that we have an idea of sustainability and circular sustainability, do you actually think making garments out of recycled PET bottles is a way to prove sustainability?

There are many more products that can be made using the rPET bottles that can be more effective than garments since garments are the ones that reach the landfill much faster than any other product.

Garments without any blends and made of pure 100% organic cotton or other natural fibers without print and solid colors are the perfect garments to use and recycle.

The world as we know it is definitely conscious about sustainability now but big companies still need to sell in great volumes to make money. This makes it extremely tough for them to shift to a circular and sustainable business model. Whereas young brands like the Cuttlefish store find it easy to follow norms and practices of sustainability since the business itself is based on the sustainability model.

There is an ever-green saying “Buyer Beware”. Customers need to start trusting small brands that are genuinely trying to make this world a better place to live and recognize greenwashing.

Remember, when a brand talks of sustainability they are fully sustainable only if they are circular. If not, they are still in the process of becoming a sustainable company.


The fashion industry has succeeded in finding eco friendly ways to create sustainable garments. But it is yet to figure out a way to close the loop and minimize the percentage of clothes ending up in landfills. Innovations in processes, reduction of costs for sustainable products and accessibility of the process to all brands, big or small is the need of the hour.  


Very thought provoking. It is really surprising that people talk lots about making clothes using recycled PET bottles and very little about recycled clothes. Well written article!


Thought provoking article.


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