The problem is that recycling textiles is a highly complex task and technical solutions are still in their infancy.
NGOs warn the real problem is over-production, and that tech innovations may just provide cover for brands to continue pumping out billions of new clothes.
But the pressure to start recycling at massive scale is happening now.
"Brands need to get to high levels of recycling at super-speed, and if they don't, the EU will be giving them massive fines," said circular economy consultant Paul Foulkes-Arellano.
AFP spoke to multiple experts to see which ideas could make a difference.
Many will fail, but here is a snapshot of current contenders that illustrate the different challenges in textile recycling.
- MycoWorks: Mushroom leather -
MycoWorks grows mycelium (fungus roots) that comes out like luxury leather, with early clients including Hermes and General Motors (for car interiors).
"The only input is sawdust and energy costs are extremely low because it's a fungus not a plant, so there's no need for light, and very little water," said CEO Matt Scullin.
While the makers of most new biomaterials are struggling to reach industrial scale, MycoWorks claims to have cracked the problem, billing itself as "the first and only biomaterials company to open a full-scale factory" -- in the US state of South Carolina -- with the first 1,000-sheet harvest coming off the line in January.
- Circ: Unblending clothes -
Most clothes are a blend of materials, making them hard to recycle. US-based Circ has invented a chemical solution to separate the most common blend, polycotton, into its constituent parts.
It uses a hydrothermal process to liquify the polyester and separate it from the cotton.
Both can then be turned into new fibres. Retail giant Zara used them for a clothing line released in April.
- SuperCircle: Collecting and sorting -
The world lacks the infrastructure to collect and sort large amounts of old clothes, which must be kept clean and separate from other waste.
SuperCircle brings together delivery firms, warehouses and tracking systems to streamline and cheapen the process.
They hope to change public attitudes with in-store drop-off bins, free shipping labels and other encouragements.
"We need ease, convenience and incentives for consumers so that when they are done with an item, the first thing they think is end-of-life recycling," said co-founder Stuart Ahlum.
They now handle all recycling logistics for multiple companies and sectors, including Uniqlo North America.
- Saentis Textiles: in-house recycling -
Saentis Textiles already helped solve one key challenge with a patented machine that can recycle cotton with minimal damage to the fibres, so it can make quality new textiles.
Its recycled cotton is used by brands including IKEA, Patagonia and Tommy Hilfiger.
Now it is selling its machine to textile companies so they can install one directly in their factories, allowing them to chuck in cut-offs and scraps for recycling on the spot.
- Unspun: 3D weaving machine -
Unspun claims to have invented the world's first 3D weaving machine, capable of creating a custom-sized pair of jeans directly from yarns in under 10 minutes.
Currently building its first micro-factory in Oakland, California to prove the concept, the machine could remove the need for brands to keep large stockpiles of inventory, cutting down on waste and transport.
- Cetia: Preparing old clothes -
Clothes must be prepared before they can be recycled, and this is the specialty of France-based Cetia.
Some of its machines are simple, like one that yanks the soles off shoes.
Others are more complex. One uses AI to recognise hard points such as buttons and zippers, and then a laser to slice them off without damaging the item.
Space Technology News - Applications and Research
|Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters
Virgin Galactic Marks 11th Spaceflight with Full Passenger Manifest
Cygnus spacecraft arrives at space station with 8,200 pounds of cargo
NASA's latest experiments aboard ISS aim to boost life in space
China warns US tech curbs will 'come back to bite them'
Ex-staff accuse SpaceX of sexual harassment, discrimination
MITRE and MDC team up to advance at Midland Spaceport
Starlab Partners with SpaceX to Launch Private Space Laboratory into Orbit
Sidus Space's 3D Hybrid satellite 'LizzieSat' ready for launch
Confirmation of ancient lake on Mars builds excitement for Perseverance rover's samples
NASA helicopter's mission ends after three years on Mars
New Year, New images from Perseverance on Mars
Polka Dots and Sunbeams: Sol 4078
BIT advances microbiological research on Chinese Space Station
Shenzhou 18 and 19 crews undertake intensive training for next missions
Tianzhou 6 burns up safely reentering Earth
Yan Hongsen's future dreams as 'Rocket Boy'
Intelsat Launches Inflight Internet Above the Arctic
Into the Starfield
Sidus ships LizzieSat to Vandenberg for upcoming SpaceX launch
Rocket Lab Launches $275 Million Convertible Note Offering for 2029 Maturity
New Data Prep Tool from Spatial to Streamline CAD Workflows
Six recycling innovations that could change fashion
Corning uses neutrons to reveal 'atomic rings' help predict glass performance
Ghana struggling with tsunami of secondhand clothes
UC Irvine-led team unravels mysteries of planet formation and evolution in distant solar system
NASA's Hubble Finds Water Vapor in Small Exoplanet's Atmosphere
TESS finds Super-Earth in habitable zone around nearby red dwarf
NASA Puts Next-Gen Exoplanet-Imaging Technology to the Test
New images reveal what Neptune and Uranus really look like
Researchers reveal true colors of Neptune, Uranus
The PI's Perspective: The Long Game
Webb rings in the holidays with the ringed planet Uranus
|Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters