Around the world, only 12% of the materials used for clothing ends up being recycled. Despite this, the small town of Prato in Northern Italy has revolutionised fabric recycling since the mid-19th century. Prato is known as the ‘textile town’, where old clothes are recycled into knitwear and wool.
Compressed bales arrive in Prato from all over the world and the clothes are sorted into piles of the same colour. Once sorted, they use machinery to take the material back to being fibres. The recycled wool is then stored for fashion brands to purchase and use in their clothing pieces.
The recycled wool in Prato has been an enormous success, given that the sustainable fashion movement demands fashion brands to be more environmentally conscious. Companies including Zara, H&M and Armani have sourced recycled wool from Prato in their pieces.
Recycled wool is a step in the right direction for the fashion industry. Wool has the potential to last many ‘lifetimes’ as the recycling process does not reduce the quality of wool for future use. From an economic perspective, the recycled fibres are less expensive to manufacture than new fibres. The wools are sorted into colours, which means that less dyes are required later on.
In 2018, 15% of the global total fabric recycling took place in Prato. Prato is leading the way in sustainable materials and offering fashion brands more eco-conscious fabric alternatives.