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Sustainability & Recycled Cotton

What is Recycled Cotton?

What is Recycled Cotton?

Recycled cotton is a process that involves the conversion of cotton fabric into cotton fiber that can be reused in textile products. It is also known as regenerated cotton, reclaimed cotton, or shoddy. The recycled content comprises recycled raw material, as well as used, reconditioned, and re-manufactured components.


Textile recycling is derived from two primary sources, namely pre-consumer and post-consumer waste. Pre-consumer waste includes scraps generated by yarn and fabric by-products, while post-consumer waste comprises garments, upholstery, towels, and household items that can be repurposed.


The majority of recycled cotton sources are produced through pre-consumer waste, such as cutting scraps. However, post-consumer waste is more challenging to sort through due to various color shades, fabric blends, and the need for a more labor-intensive process.

Recycling Cotton


​Recycled cotton has the potential to be repurposed into a variety of low-grade products, including insulation, mop heads, rags, and stuffing. The recycling process can effectively divert numerous products from landfills, as the Council for Textile Recycling estimates that annual textile waste amounts to 25 billion pounds. By utilizing recycled cotton, the amount of energy, water, and dye usage is significantly reduced, as the production of new materials is offset. Recycled cotton yarns are typically sourced from pre-consumer textile scraps that are sorted by color, resulting in already-dyed yarns. While the use of existing materials can partially offset CO2 and fossil fuel emissions, the collection, processing, and shipping of cotton scraps or clothing may diminish or neutralize some of these savings.



In order to achieve strength and durability, cotton must be blended with other fibers when being transformed into new yarn. As a result, it is not possible to continuously recycle cotton. The composition of recycled cotton will vary depending on its intended use. The inclusion of any amount of recycled material will have an impact on the properties of the resulting yarn and fabric, including evenness, strength, and uniformity. Recycled yarn is typically more expensive than standard, virgin cotton yarn, and may be prohibitively costly. Testing equipment is designed for use with ginned, virgin cotton, and results may be skewed due to differences in fiber packing and orientation. The risk of contamination by other fibers is significantly higher when using recycled cotton. The supply chain for recycled cotton must take into account factors such as stitching, sewing thread, and small amounts of spandex.

Cotton Fabric

Consumer Interest

According to research conducted by Cotton Incorporated's Lifestyle Monitor™, it has been observed that consumers are actively seeking out recycled materials. However, it is important to note that the term "recycled" does not necessarily translate to "sustainable" in the minds of consumers. The research indicates that 24% of consumers are willing to pay a premium for clothing or home textiles that are labeled as "recycled," and 32% of consumers who intend to purchase clothing or home textiles will specifically seek out "recycled" products. It is noteworthy, however, that only 5% of consumers associate "sustainable" with "recycled." Consumers tend to place greater value on clothing or products that are labeled as "100% cotton," "natural," or "environmentally-friendly."

            24%                     32%                   Only  5%


of consumers are willing to pay more for clothing or home textiles that are labeled as “recycled”

of consumers believe sustainable = recycled

of consumers who plan on purchasing clothing or home textiles will look for “recycled” clothing

Benefits & Challenges to Recycled Cotton Fiber

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