How does textile recycling work?

As gentle for the planet as it is for your skin: recycled fabric.

Make the choice of eco-responsibility with TPOP, your ecological Print on Demand service.

It's hard to miss the fact that at TPOPwe are deeply committed to our planet. The environment has been at the heart of our company's concerns since the beginning of our history. Rather than gradually adapting to an increasingly eco-conscious market (and so much the better), we have deliberately definedSustainability as a pillar of the company, and this, since its creation. Always on the lookout for greener solutions, we are passionate about nature and have been walking in the fields with the fresh morning dew under our feet since we could walk (approximately).

At the moment, we cannot ignore the dramatic and precipitous reduction of the usual life span of clothes. We have already told you about this phenomenon known as fast fashion, which is symbolised by the normalisation of certain practices that are harmful to our planet, such as selling products at prices that cannot guarantee the proper remuneration of workers, only to have them thrown away by their owners after just one or two uses. We consume about 130 billion of items of clothing per year, 60% more than 15 years ago. Clothing has therefore become a disposable good, a transformation that has all the makings of an ecological disaster...

At TPOP, we believe that it is possible to break out of this frenzied consumption pattern and find a way to a more reasoned and circular economy. In our view, this would include offering products that are more durable and robust, of better quality and that use fewer resources in their manufacture. This is perfectly illustrated by our range of eco-friendly products, notably with our many textiles made from organic cotton, but also our pieces made from recycled cotton or polyester.

Recycled textile: this is a word association that we hear more and more, without really knowing what it implies. How is cotton recycled? Does polyester go through the same process? Are recycled textiles as strong as new materials? Let's get to the bottom of some of these mysteries right away in this lovingly written dossier.

Recycled cotton

A cotton field used to make your personalised organic products.

Cotton is a fibre of entirely vegetable origin. Since its development in the age of industrialisation, it has been the most widely used textile material in the world, a true star in its field.

Conventional cotton growing is intensely resource-hungry. The amount of water it requires, both for cultivation and for manufacturing, is simply staggering. See for yourself: the design of a single T-shirt would require the use of more than 2700 litres of water. Most of this water is used to irrigate the cotton fields; the rest is used to clean the cotton fibres.

Organic cotton, a major component of many of our products, is so designated because it saves water at this stage in particular, where the fibres are cleaned more quickly, less thoroughly. Now you can see why we love this material so much?

Similarly, recycled cotton is another great alternative to "basic", conventionally grown cotton. This recycled version has an equally soft feel at a significantly reduced environmental impact. Remember the t-shirt that used 2700 litres of water? Well, the recycled version will only need 50 litres for the fibre rinsing phase. No, ladies and gentlemen, this is not witchcraft: it's recycling.

How does cotton recycling work?

Recycle your customised clothing and accessories for cleaner, more sustainable fashion with TPOP.

Generally speaking, it is important to know that the cotton used for recycling comes from a first use: this is what is known as post-consumer recycled cotton (a term that can literally be translated as "post-consumer"). The cotton products destined for recycling come from two main sources: either the sorting centres, where the textile products deposited in the bins provided for this purpose are stored, or from donations destined for certain organisations that could not resell them. We throw away an average of 30 kilos of clothes per year... It would be a great shame not to take advantage of this, wouldn't it?

More rarely, recycled cotton may be pre-consumer, i.e. it has never been used before. This is usually supplied by textile mills, in the form of offcuts and other scraps that have been lost during the cutting of the fabric. These would have ended up in the bin, if not for recycling. It is becoming increasingly common for these offcuts to be bought back, a promising point for the future of recycled cotton, proving its obvious rise in popularity.

The process starts with a selection of 100% cotton products, which have been previously sorted according to their color . Following this collection, the textile is crushed and then spun. And there you have it: like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the fibre is renewed, ready to be woven and transformed into fabric. Isn't it beautiful?

Spinning of recycled cotton for the production of ecological products from our Print on Demand catalogue.

The only small downside to recycled cotton is that the fibre, once ground up, becomes brittle; it is generally much shorter than the virgin fibre that can be obtained directly from the cotton crop. It will therefore not be possible for the moment to obtain a product made from 100% recycled cotton that is identical to its new version, with the same softness or durability. However, specialists are still working on optimising recycling techniques. At the moment, there are two options: either the recycled cotton is usually mixed with other recycled or organic fibres to be made into a T-shirt, or it is reused for paper production.

Recycled polyester

How recycled polyester, a green and ecological material, is made.

At TPOPwe're not into toxic and unsustainable materials. The use of such materials simply does not fit with our mission to provide optimal service while pampering our planet. However, when it comes to reusing these materials so that they don't end up in nature or the ocean, we are all for it.

This is the case with recycled polyester, which is part of the composition of many of the products in our range. Polyester is also known as PET or polyethylene terephthalate, a term you should remember for winning at scrabble. It is a polluting, non-renewable textile derived from petroleum, the manufacture of which requires the use of chemicals and is harmful to air, soil and water: in short, it is a dirty material that our planet could happily do without. However, a large number of textile companies still use polyester as the main material for their clothing and other accessories: currently, this material represents no less than 70% of the fibres produced in the world. Considering that the production of one kilo of polyester requires the use of 1.5 kilos of petroleum, this figure clearly does not look good, ecologically speaking.

This is where rPET, also known as recycled polyester, comes in: while not a miracle solution, it is a more environmentally friendly alternative to polyester, while retaining a similar feel and strength to virgin material. This fibre is usually made from mineral water bottles and food packaging. The production of recycled polyester has two very positive aspects:

  • It avoids the production of additional new polyester, and therefore the need to use more non-renewable fossil energy;
  • It limits the amount of polyester-based waste and therefore, by extension, the spread of plastic micro-particles that these cause once their degradation processes have started.

At present, it would seem difficult to prevent textile industry professionals from manufacturing parts from polyester, a material that is still highly valued for some of its characteristics, such as its wrinkle-free or breathable aspect, and therefore suitable for sports activities. The suitable alternative to limit the harmful effects of polyester would therefore be to support the recycling of this material. Nice idea, but how does it work, you ask? Well, don't be too impatient... We were about to get to that.

The manufacture of recycled polyester

Making polyester from plastic bottles for greener products.

It may be hard to believe it when you look at a garment made from recycled polyester, which at first glance would seem to have little in common with our everyday waste, but it all starts with the same plastic bottles or packaging that we see (far too many of) every day.

These plastics are collected from sorting centres (i.e. post-consumer recycling, as mentioned above) or directly from food factories(pre-consumer) and sent to recycling centres.

They will first be sorted according to their colour: transparent plastics are generally the most prized as they can be transformed into clear fibre, which can then be kept in its original white colour or dyed in any shade. However, all plastics will be sorted and recycled, including corks.

After this first stage, the plastics are passed through a shredder to emerge as shreds. These will then be poured into an oven, where they will be melted, slowly but surely, for no less than ten hours, to be transformed into uninterrupted or cut fibres, as strong as new polyester thread.
Finally, these fibres will be hot-spun; the result is a ready-to-use textile material, as strong as new polyester, which can be recycled several times before it becomes unusable.

Plastic recycling for a cleaner ocean and a protected environment.

When you consider that over 8 million pieces of plastic waste end up in our oceans every year, the prospect of doing something as simple as buying recycled suddenly seems rather obvious, doesn't it? We all have an impact on the environment: rather than blaming the neighbour, let's do our best to make the right choices.

Our recycled textile products

At TPOP, the desire to protect the environment is not only a core value, but also a raison d'être: when we saw the emergence of the Print on Demand mechanism, which is already ecological in nature, we were driven by the deep desire to offer the greenest possible solution to both budding and established entrepreneurs. This desire is articulated in the form of a series of steps: among these, we include, for example, offering zero plastic packaging, presenting in our catalogue only products that we have in stock, and offering a range composed of as many environmentally friendly items as possible.

You will of course find a large number of organic products made from organic cotton in our catalogue, but also a nice selection of clothes and other accessories made from recycled cotton and polyester. Because it can be useful, find out right now the list of our products available for customisation made of at least 15% recycled textile:

Find them in our catalogue, right here:

Available products


They are the symbols of an ambition for sustainability, they are solid, and on top of that, they look great. How proud are we to present such items to you...

Between saving a gargantuan amount of water, limiting the presence of plastics in our oceans and reducing the production of materials that require the use of polluting resources such as oil, it would seem that we have everything to gain from turning to recycled textiles too. With the fast fashion culture in full swing and critically shortening the lifespan of our textile products, it seems that the perfect time to take action to be part of a circular economy has officially arrived... Sometimes change doesn't come easy: start making a difference by choosing our recycled textile products.

Figures : Oxfam, WWF, The Pretty Planetee