Most businesses have some requirement for confidential shredding of documents to protect data, but secure destruction of textiles is an equally important although less-known service.

Confidential waste destruction company Avena asked for a blog post that highlights this specialist service, why it is necessary and the environmental benefits it brings.

How Can Textiles and Textile Waste be Recycled?

Many textiles can be repurposed. Clothes can be donated to charity shops for resale, while blankets and towels can be given to wildlife rescue and animal shelters. Cotton sheeting can be cut down into smaller squares to make durable, low-lint wipes for cleaning, engineering and printing.

But when the fabric has disintegrated too far to be repurposed, what options are there for recycling?

Turning fabrics into fibres

Natural textiles such as wool, cotton and cellulose naturally biodegrade under the right conditions and can even be added to biomass and composting systems. But many fabrics are made from, or contain, manmade fibres that don’t break down. This doesn’t mean they have no further use.

By removing fasteners such as buttons and zips and breaking them down into fibres, discarded fabrics can be converted into a raw material with many new uses.

Fibres from pre- and post-consumer textile waste can be added to virgin fibres to create clothing for brands aiming to send zero waste to landfill and create more sustainable fashion.

Recycled fibres are also used widely in manufacturing industries due to their excellent soundproofing and padding properties. Examples of this include sound-deadening panels and seat padding in vehicles, toy stuffing, mattress fillers and acoustic office screens.

Where does recycled fibre come from?

Recycled fibre is sourced from a mix of post-consumer and pre-consumer waste.

Post-consumer textile waste

This describes any textile-based items that have been made into finished products. Although some of this comes from pre-worn clothing donated to recycling schemes, large volumes are actually products that have never been worn or used.

Surplus and discontinued stock

It is often hard to predict the success of a new clothing line. Fashions can change overnight with a mention on social media, a celebrity endorsement or even an unexpected change in the weather. Even without these changes, every season brings its new looks and the old ones must be cleared away to make room for them.

Once the end-of-season sales have run their course, what is to be done with the remaining stock? Stores that function as clearinghouses for branded goods may buy it at vastly reduced costs, but for truly valuable brands this isn’t an option. It makes better commercial sense to send the overstock to secure textile shredding services such as Avena, rather than damage the brand’s value by selling it off cheap.

Faulty stock

Brand-conscious retailers will likewise choose to shred any clothing with faults either in the production of the fabric or the manufacturing of the garment. Poor quality garments are even more damaging to brand reputation than unsold stock.


Clothing that identifies the wearer as a member of an emergency service, security organisation or any other personnel with authorised access to restricted areas must always be guarded; false impersonation can have serious consequences that may compromise public safety and damage the integrity of the organisation.

Uniforms of former employees are routinely handed to a confidential garment destruction company such as Avena. The same happens to unissued stock when a uniform is given a redesign, as members of the public may not be able to tell the difference or realise that the redesign means the old uniform is no longer valid.

Pre-consumer textile waste

This refers to any textiles not cut into garments, including the fabric left behind after the cutting process. If it’s not commercially viable to make other items from offcuts and trimmings, recycling is the best option.

Fabrics with slight blemishes might be sold at a reduced cost, but if the fabric features a brand logo or distinctive pattern that immediately associates it with a valuable brand. Allowing it to enter the market as an inferior product would likely cause severe damage to the brand, and in such instances, the fabric must be securely recycled.

For more information on Avena confidential textile recycling, contact us on 0845 521 9892 or via our website.