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Wed Jul 10, 2024, 05:19 AM Jul 10

China's landfills brim with textile waste as fast fashion reigns and recycling takes a back seat

WENZHOU, China (AP) — At a factory in Zhejiang province on China’s eastern coast, two mounds of discarded cotton clothing and bed linens, loosely separated into dark and light colors, pile up on a workroom floor. Jacket sleeves, collars and brand labels protrude from the stacks as workers feed the garments into shredding machines.

It’s the first stage of a new life for the textiles, part of a recycling effort at the Wenzhou Tiancheng Textile Company, one of the largest cotton recycling plants in China.

Textile waste is an urgent global problem, with only 12% recycled worldwide, according to fashion sustainability nonprofit Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Even less — only 1% — are castoff clothes recycled into new garments; the majority is used for low-value items like insulation or mattress stuffing.

Nowhere is the problem more pressing than in China, the world’s largest textile producer and consumer, where more than 26 million tons of clothes are thrown away each year, according to government statistics. Most of it ends up in landfills.


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