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China to up its textile recycling capability

Updated: Apr 20, 2022 By HOU LIQIANG CHINA DAILY Print
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A staff member works in a textile factory at the integrated industrial park in Moyu county of Hotan, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Jan 11, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

New guideline to contribute to country's ambitious climate, pollution targets

China, producer of half the world's textile fiber, has unveiled a guideline that aims to significantly beef up its capability to recycle textile waste, most of which is nonbiodegradable.

Experts have lauded the initiative for its potential role in promoting low-carbon, circular economic development, saying it will contribute to the country's ambitious climate and pollution targets.

The country aims to recycle a quarter of its textile waste and use it to produce 2 million metric tons of recycled fiber annually by 2025, according to a document unveiled by the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planner, and the ministries of industry and information technology, and commerce.

Five years on from 2025, a relatively complete system for textile waste recycling will have been established in the country, it said. By then, China will be able to recycle 30 percent of its textile waste and produce 3 million tons of recycled fiber annually.

"As a key part of establishing and then improving a green, low-carbon and circular economic system, recycling helps in resource conservation and the reduction of pollutants and carbon emissions," the commission said in a news release.

Zhao Kai, executive vice-president of the China Association of Circular Economy, said that as people live wealthier lifestyles, there is a greater demand for clothing, which creates more waste.

Only about one-fifth of the roughly 22 million tons of textile waste generated in the country in 2020 was recycled. China produced only 1.5 million tons of recycled fiber that year.

"There is a lot of room for improvement in the country's capability to recycle textile waste," Zhao stressed.

The guideline will hopefully address a series of weak links in textile waste recycling, he continued.

The document, for example, vows to introduce preferential policies to motivate companies to improve product design, so that they can be more easily dismantled, classified and recycled after being discarded.

Aside from improving the network for collecting textile waste, he said, the guideline also aims to address problems that hinder reuse and recycling.

The country will hammer out and strive to improve the industrial standards and norms on cleaning, disinfection, epidemic control and trading of secondhand clothes, he said. Export control of used garments will be further strengthened.

The guideline pledged to foster leading enterprises in an endeavor to promote the use of recycled fiber in the textile, construction, automobile, agriculture and environmental protection sectors, he noted.

Other experts stressed the environmental benefits the document will bring.

Tang Shijun, former head of the Quartermaster Equipment Research Institute, said the use of every kilogram of recycled textile waste will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 3.6 kg and save 6,000 liters of water.

Sun Huaibin, vice-president of the China National Textile and Apparel Council, said China currently gets recycled fiber as a raw material mainly from plastic bottles and industrial textiles. Only a very small amount of old clothes are recycled.

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