Which certifications guarantee the presence of recycled materials in a product?

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Recycling has a prominent role in reducing the incredible amount of waste and pollution produced by the fashion industry and hence in supporting the transition towards a circular fashion model in which materials are kept and saved to make new products. Which are the certifications which guarantee the use of recycled materials?

The role of recycling in the circular economy

The European Parliament defines the circular economy as “a model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible. In this way, the life cycle of products is extended”.

Recycling is hence an essential step in the circular economy, but it is not that popular in the fashion industry.

According to the Textile Exchange 2022 report, in 2021, global fiber production recorded its record, 113 million tons. The use of recycled fibers increased from 8.4% to 8.9%, mainly thanks to PET bottle recycling to produce polyester fibers, but recycled textiles counted less than 1% in the global fiber market, confirming that there is still a lot to do.

Open-loop and closed-loop recycling

Recycled can be divided into open- and closed-loop. Open-loop recycling means that materials are reprocessed and recycled for different applications, such as PET bottles used to make textile fibers. Closed-loop recycling means that materials are reused in the same industry, such as shredding old garments to the fiber stage.

Mechanical or chemical recycling

Moreover, there are different methods to recycle materials. Mechanical recycling is the most common and means that waste is recovered by mechanical processes. Usually, the final material is of a lower quality than the original. In chemical recycling, materials are turned back into base chemicals and chemical feedstocks. The final material has the same physical qualities as the original.

Pre- and post-consumer recycled

Lastly, recycling can happen pre- or post-consumer. Pre-consumer recycled materials are obtained from production process waste, while post-consumer recycled materials originate from products consumers have used.

The main certifications for recycled products

Different certifications guarantee that a product contains at least some recycled materials. We got the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) and the Recycled Claim Standard (RCS). They both recognize the importance of recycling for developing more sustainable production and consumption models, reducing the exploitation of resources, and increasing the quality of recycled products.

Global Recycled Standard

The Global Recycled Standard, promoted by Textile Exchange, is considered the most important international reference point for producing sustainable textiles using recycled materials.

The GRS assures that products contain at least 20% of pre- or post-consumer recycled materials and that the production processes are fully traceable and comply with precise environmental and social standards, which concern, for instance, some restrictions on the use of chemicals. Both products and manufacturing processes can be certified GRS.

Recycled Claim Standard

The Recycled Claim Standard, also promoted by Textile Exchange, guarantees that products contain at least 5% of pre- or post-consumer recycled materials and that the production processes, from labeling to the finished product, are fully traceable and comply with precise environmental and social standards. Both products and manufacturing processes can be certified RCS.

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