When one looks at the nature surrounding us, they can only be surprised by the smooth way it works – circularity and supplementary nature of processes ensures no resources are wasted.

Human activity, on the other hand, is far from perfect in making sure resources are used and replenished effectively, and minimal waste is created.

Having that in mind, let us explore the textile industry. The textile industry is known to be a significant contributor to ineffective resource use and pollution globally, primarily due to various stages of production, including dyeing, finishing, and manufacturing.

It is, however, inevitable to continue developing this industry, since millions of people depend on it for their daily leisure and occupational garment needs.

The big question is – can humanity transform this industry to a minimum waste, effective resource consuming activity with zero impact on the planet?


Nonetheless, we can take significant steps in each life cycle phase of a garment to reduce its negative environmental impact.

Let us investigate the lifecycle of a cleanroom garment, from production to end-of-life stages and see the impact of our choices.

Choice No1 – Choose Circular instead of Linear Economy

“In our current economy, we take materials from the Earth, make products from them, and eventually throw them away as waste – the process is linear. In a circular economy, by contrast, we stop waste being produced in the first place.

The circular economy is a system where materials never become waste and nature is regenerated. In a circular economy, products and materials are kept in circulation through processes like maintenance, reuse, refurbishment, remanufacture, recycling, and composting. The circular economy tackles climate change and other global challenges, like biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution, by decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources.”

Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Selecting circular garment solutions, as small a choice as it might seem, can have a significant impact on a large scale. Did you know that circular cleanroom garments are in average:

  • 46% less energy consuming during their lifecycle compared to their disposable counterparts?
  • … emit 42% less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere?
  • … require 75% less water (and this is including water needs for a regular laundry service for reusable garments)?
  • … generate 95% less waste?

It is no wonder EU Commission has set up a circular vision for 2030 involving the textile industry:

“By 2030 textile products placed on the EU market are long-lived and recyclable, to a great extent made of recycled fibers, free of hazardous substances and produced in respect of social rights and the environment. Consumers benefit longer from high quality affordable textiles, … and economically profitable re-use and repair services are widely available. In a competitive, resilient and innovative textiles sector, producers take responsibility for their products along the value chain, including when they become waste. The circular textiles ecosystem is thriving, driven by sufficient capacities for innovative fiber-to-fiber recycling, while the incineration and landfilling of textiles is reduced to the minimum.”

The choice seems to be evident. Nevertheless, even a chosen circular solution is not completely bulletproof.

Here are a couple of ways to make it even more sustainable.

Choice No2 – Choose Garments Eco-designed for Durability and Recyclability

Responsibility of eco-design lies in the hands of garment manufacturer. It can, however, be influenced by wishes and demands from decontamination service providers or end-users. It is a shared accountability of all members of this value chain against our environment to produce high quality, durable products that will serve their purpose for a longer period of time. Moreover, at the end of their lifetime, garments should be easily recyclable – all ingredient materials easily separated and sent to the most value-adding reuse or recycling option.

This choice might require deeper investigation into eco-design, but prominent cleanroom garment manufacturers and decontamination service providers will happily assist you in making the more sustainable decision.

Choice No3 – Extend the Lifetime of the Garments: Maximum Lifetime Validation

Contamination control in cleanroom production is of utmost importance. Contamination Control Strategy should include thorough garment qualification and maximum lifetime validation for the chosen apparel. We at Elis Cleanroom have chosen several commonly used cleanroom fabrics on the European market and over the span of two years have systematically tested and validated their maximum lifetime. Testing included taking garments out of circulation after 20, 40, 60 and 80 decontamination and sterilization cycles (with the actual wear-and-tear at the customers’ facility), performing Helmke Drum and Body Box (Dispersion Chamber) assessments, as well as visual inspection of integrity of the garments and its accessories.

Results have showed that garments stay within the required specifications even at (but not limited to) 80 cycles of decontamination and sterilization.

A conclusion can be drawn that there is no need for artificial end-of-life limitations for these garments of 50 or 60 cycles (as many players in cleanroom industry are willing to set).

Prolonging the lifetime of the garment allows for fewer of them being produced, thus mitigating the negative environmental impact of textile manufacturing.

Choice No4 – Extend the Lifetime of the Garments: Maintenance and Repair

Repairing cleanroom garments has always been a heated discussion in the industry. On one hand, one might think that strict cleanroom industry regulations regarding contamination control prohibit any interference with the garments. Rigorous contamination control measures are highlighted in the 2022 edition of GMP Annex 1, emphasizing garment qualification, validation, and visual control. On the other hand, none of the frequently cited cleanroom standards forbid cleanroom garment repair. On the contrary, they encourage it and support the optimal way of doing it:

“6.1.5 Repair of garments. The user and processor should agree on all repairs by means of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), which will specific all facets of repairs, including repair methods and degrees of repair… “ IEST-RP CC 003.5

“Cleanroom clothing (clean packaged or dirty) shall not be removed beyond the confines of the storage area and cleanroom except for laundering, repair or exchange purposes” ISO 14644

All cleanroom garment manufacturers and laundry service providers should possess the knowledge of how to repair cleanroom garments according to IEST-RP CC 003.5 guidelines. Ability to fix broken studs, zippers, buckles, elastic cords or patch holes and tears prevents garment disposal before the end of their validated lifetime. This, in turn, helps avoid emissions during garment manufacturing process and build-up of waste.

Choice No5 – select a value-adding end-of-life solution

To become successful, circular economy requires the consistent implementation and enforcement of existing waste legislation. Textile manufacturers and decontamination service providers must follow the recommendations of EU legislation on priorities in handling textile waste:

  1. Eco-design durable and easily recyclable products to prevent early waste creation.
  2. Repair and maintain garments to the highest extent possible
  3. Reuse or recycle as large a fraction of textiles as possible.
  4. Ensure no products are landfilled. Non-recyclable products can be transformed to alternative fuels.

All discarded textiles must be collected in a streamlined and sustainable way. Afterwards they should be sorted and sent further to a recycling or recovery option which will bring most value to their new life: textile-to-textile, textile-to-industry or energy recovery. Cooperation with the most experienced textile and recycling/recovery partners in the market, investigating the latest available technology and ensuring the most cost-efficient and sustainable handling of end-of-life textiles is crucial.

Our ambition at Elis Cleanroom is to be able to produce new cleanroom-grade cleanroom fabrics and garments out of our end-of-life textiles. It is a long journey involving investigating newest thermo-mechanical and chemical recycling technologies. We are involved in multiple Europe-wide projects where a network of textile industry players is striving to create a value chain capable of recycling polyester garments in a cost-effective and sustainable way.

Until we are fully successful in this endeavor, most of our polyester products are turned into filling for thermos garments and bedroom linen (pillows, duvets), insulation and acoustic materials, furniture, and other textile-to-industry alternatives.

Both you and Elis are bound to the same value chain, providing products and services to the ultimate customer. Therefore, we are all responsible for ensuring end-of-life textiles last as long as possible during their lifetime and are turned into a value-adding alternative thereafter.


CSR Manager, Elis Cleanroom


Sources and references:

  1. EU Commission
  2. Ellen MacArthur Foundation
  4. IEST-RP CC 003.5
  5. EN ISO 14644