Can textile waste be recycled?

Plastic, glass, cans and paper – everyone knows that these are the most commonly recycled materials in South Africa. However, a grey area may creep in when it comes to textiles and fabrics. In general, textiles can be recycled, but it depends on the core component of the material and whether a recycling facility in your city or town has the right equipment to process various textiles.

The best alternative to recycling textiles is to donate them or repurpose them. In South Africa, most small towns won’t have a recycling facility that can process fabrics, so donating to a church or charity is a great way to pass on old clothing and materials. However, if the material is plastic-based, such as nylon, acrylic or polyester, as can be found in stitch-bonded non-woven material, then it can be recycled more easily.

Romatex is a leading manufacturer and supplier of stitch-bonded non-woven material in South Africa. Our factory in Cape Town produces around two million square metres of this textile every month. As it’s made from recycled plastic bottles, stitch-bonded non-woven material is a sustainable and recyclable textile. Last year, we removed 54 million plastic bottles from landfills and turned them into various products.

stitch-bonded non-woven material shopping bag with carrots and lettuce inside it

How textiles are recycled

Each textile is recycled differently, depending on the type of core fibres. This means that materials need to be separated and sorted before being processed. Synthetic fibres, such as nylon, acrylic and polyester need to be separated from natural fibres, such as cotton, and often into different colours too.

Once sorted, the textiles are shredded or torn into fibrous form. This is what gets cleaned and processed. The ‘yarn’ is then re-spun and sold as recycled yarn to be woven, knitted, or used in fibre form for stitch-bonding, filled products (duvets and pillows) or in other non-woven applications. 

Romatex annual report 1

What if my city doesn’t recycle material?

Many smaller towns in South Africa probably won’t have the facilities to recycle textiles. In this case, you should consider donating your old textiles. Just make sure they’re clean and reusable. When it comes to stitch-bonded non-woven material, many of the products can be reused or repurposed.

For example, shopping bags are often sold to customers as a more permanent solution to reducing plastic bag waste. Supermarkets, such as Woolworths, have even implemented ‘leave one, take one’ policies where customers can drop off unused shopping bags so that other shoppers can take them if needed.

Contact your local municipality or recycling facility to find out if it’s possible to recycle textiles in your area. If not, then donating them is your best bet. Plastic-based textiles are helping to minimise the environmental impact of plastics and contribute to the local employment sector and green economy. For more information on our various products and textiles, please contact us today.


Romatex has been a leading manufacturer and supplier of stitch-bonded non-woven materials and homeware for over 50 years. Romatex is a Level 2 B-BBEE company that is owned by Deneb Investments Limited, a subsidiary of Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI), which is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). 

Our head office is based in Cape Town but we have branches in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and the Free State. For more information about our products, please contact Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram for our latest news and industry insights.

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