Pilot project in Tunisia reveals potential for producing jeans from recycled denim

January 20, 2022

(TAP) - The SwitchMed/MED TEST III project has converted 6,530 pairs of second choice jeans into 16,000 new pairs of jeans made of 20% recycled cotton. This reveals the potential for producing jeans using recycled materials from pre-consumer textile waste in Tunisia, says a briefing note published Wednesday on the Switchmed website.

Launched in 2019 in Tunisia, the MED Test III pilot project aims to develop circular textile value chains that value textile waste. It is part of the SwitchMed II programme funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).

This pilot project, on which UNIDO and a Swedish denim brand 'Nudie jeans' have been collaborating since 2020, has demonstrated the viability of sourcing and reintroducing recycled textile fibres from second quality products into the manufacture of new jeans in Tunisia.

This could justify the business case for high-value recycling of second-grade jeans in the Tunisian textile and clothing value chain,' reads the note, which is based on a report recently published by SwitchMed.

UNIDO Chief Technical Adviser Roberta De Palma stressed that by adopting 'high-value recycling', 'we are showing how to recycle pre-consumer textile waste into new garments instead of recycling it into lower-value products'.

This, she said, helps to demonstrate the potential of a fully local recycling value chain in Tunisia.

She added that local recycling helps to maintain value in Tunisia while positioning the Tunisian industry in the global market as 'a future partner with a supply chain capable of producing more sustainable denim'.

/// A second phase of the project is planned ///

A second phase is planned with the Swedish brand. It will consist of piloting the recycling of post-industrial textile waste.
According to Nudie Jeans' Environmental Manager, Eliina Brinkberg, Tunisia has a huge potential for local supply of recycled textile fibres, especially as it has all the necessary production capacities for this process.

Moreover, she said, pre-consumer textile waste is easier to reuse than post-consumer textile waste, as sorting, quality and sourcing can be done within the same supply chain.

According to a UNIDO textile waste mapping study, the Tunisian textile and clothing industry generates more than 31,000 tonnes of pre-consumer textile waste each year, more than half of which is either 100% cotton waste or 'cotton-rich waste'.

Transporting pre-consumer textile waste from Tunisia to recycling facilities in Europe and Asia increases the carbon footprint and accounts for up to two-thirds of the total cost of recycled denim, according to the same source.

Launched in 2013, the SwitchMed initiative is implemented by UNIDO, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Division of Economics, the United Nations Environment Programme Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP/MAP) and its Regional Activity Centre for Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP/RAC).

It aims to accelerate the shift towards sustainable consumption and production patterns in the Southern Mediterranean, in particular through the promotion of circular economy approaches.

The Programme aims to achieve productive, circular and shared economies in the Mediterranean by changing the way goods and services are consumed and produced so that human development is decoupled from environmental degradation.


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