SGS: Materials in contact with food and the use of recycled plastics in a circular economy


Consumer Compact|Softlines

The 2025 Recycled Polyester Challenge aims to build on the momentum generated by the Textile Exchange’s 2017 Recycled Polyester Pledge. Brands are encouraged to use 80-100% rPET, with the ultimate goal of reaching critical mass and recycling 90% of all polyester by 2030.2 This rPET initiative is just one of many initiatives currently being promoted to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the apparel industry’s reliance on primary resources.

Textile fibers are traditionally difficult to recycle. It is estimated that the average US consumer generates 37 kg of textile waste each year.3 Globally, an estimated 92 million tonnes of textile waste are created each year, and this figure is expected to increase to approximately 134 million tonnes by 2030.4 At the same time, the industry uses about 98 million tons of raw materials every year, and this is expected to reach 300 million tons by 2050.5

Drivers of change

The problem isn’t necessarily the amount of clothes thrown away, it’s what happens to them. To quote American futurist Alex Steffen, “There is no trash, just useful things in the wrong place.”

Consumers are increasingly demanding more sustainable products, and that includes clothing. For manufacturers, there are positives. A UK study found that 43% of consumers were willing to pay more for sustainable clothing. 90% of consumers also said they would buy a product that said it was “recycled” or “100% recyclable”. This must be considered in combination with the fact that 62% of consumers said they would stop using a brand if found. be “harmful” to the environment.6

The industry is already reacting. Sustainability is now a commitment made by many high street retailers. One leading brand has pledged to ensure that all cotton, linen and polyester used in its products is organic, sustainable or recycled by 2025. Another has set a science-based target to reduce its GHG emissions and is committed to using 100% recycled or sustainable materials. by 2030.

These changes are also driven by governments. For example, the European Union (EU) seeks to create a circular economy based on the maxim: use, reuse, redo and then Such an approach to consumer products and the materials from which they are made will significantly reduce the industry’s impact on the environment.

Garbage should no longer be considered waste. It is a resource that we should exploit, and that includes the fibers used in textiles and clothing.

What are recycled fibers?

ISO 14021 defines recycled materials as reprocessed from materials recovered through a manufacturing process and then transformed into a final product or a component to be incorporated into a product. Commonly recycled fibers include polyester, nylon, cotton, wool, and down.

The textile industry currently lags behind other industries in recycling. Globally, only 12% of textiles are recycled. This compares to recycling rates for paper, glass and plastic PET bottles in the United States of 66%, 27% and 29%. This is because most of the rPET used in clothing comes from bottles, not old clothes.8

Part of the problem is that clothes are made from multiple materials, which makes them difficult to recycle. For example, a t-shirt labeled 100% cotton will always have other components, such as labels and sewing threads, which may be polyester. Cotton jeans often contain spandex alongside other non-cotton components (zippers, dyes, buttons, labels, etc.). It is this combination of materials that makes recycling difficult.9

Material-to-material recycling is slow, labor intensive and requires skilled workers. In 2020, it was estimated that the US recycled 13% of footwear and the EU recycled 50% of textiles in this way. Overall, the figure is significantly lower.tenThere is hope, however, and these numbers are improving. Around the world, industry is using more and more recycled materials, but we are still far from reaching the goal of zero landfill.

This pressure to change, however, creates opportunities for brands and manufacturers.

Consumer insurance

Consumers are looking for sustainability, but when they read a statement about recycled materials, they want to trust it.

The Textile Exchange has developed a range of voluntary standards to help industry verify sustainability claims.11 RCS (Recycled Claim Standard) and GRS (Global Recycled Standard) are internationally recognized standards that define requirements for third-party certification of recycled inputs and chain of custody. The common goal of these standards is to increase the use of recycled materials.12

Products labeled RCS and GRS must contain independently verified materials that meet the ISO definition of recycling. Both standards also require a clear chain of responsibility between the recycler and the manufacturer. The GRS differs as it also includes provisions for social responsibility, environmental management and chemical restrictions. There are also differences in the levels of recycled material the finished product must contain – RCS (5-100%) and GRS (20-100%). However, if a company wishes to display the GRS logo, their product must contain a minimum of 50% recycled content.13

Consumers demanding more durable products, RCS and GRS provide the assurances they want to see when making purchasing decisions.

SGS solution

SGS is a Textile Exchange approved third party certifier for GRS and RCS. We help manufacturers, retailers and buyers ensure their products and processes meet recognized recycling standards. In complex markets, the ability to demonstrate the use of recycled fibers gives brands a competitive edge with discerning consumers.

Learn more about SGS Softline Services.

Learn more in Consumer Compact >
Subscribe >
Follow us now on Linkedln >

For more information please contact:

Eric Wang
Softlines Global Technical Innovation Manager
Connectivity and products
Phone. : +86-21-61402666

The references

1 2025 Recycled Polyester Challenge
22025 Recycled Polyester Challenge
3Environmental impact
4Why clothes are so hard to recycle
5A new textile economy: rethinking the future of fashion
6Consumers demand sustainable products
seven First circular economy action plan
8Why clothes are so hard to recycle
9Why clothes are so hard to recycle
tenThe basics of textile recycling
11Textile Exchange Standards
12Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) + Global Recycling Standard (GRS)
13Standards Complaints Policy


About Author

Comments are closed.