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A New Textile Economy

Dec 4

Written by:
04/12/2017 10:33  RssIcon

Can we afford to spend a quarter of our carbon budget on fashion? 

 

The clothing industry is vital – and not only because we all wear clothes every day. Each year, it provides over 300 million jobs, many of them in the world’s poorest countries. A new report from the Ellen Macarthur Foundation asks how we can capture this value without paying the current, extortionate price.

Textile production currently emits more greenhouse gases than all international flights and maritime shipping combined – according to the report, ‘A New Textile Economy’, published by the Foundation last week.

 

Image: fashion

 

The report suggests that this figure will continue to rise. By 2050, clothing production will emit one quarter of the carbon we are allowed to produce if we are to stay within the 2 degree climate change target.

The amount of oil consumed by the industry (currently 98 million tonnes annually) is also expected to increase three fold in this time.

Meanwhile, the Foundation suggests, these precious resources escape from our economy after only a handful of uses. The average number of times a garment is worn has decreased by 36% in the past 15 years, and clothes are almost entirely made from raw, unused resources. "The textiles system operates in an almost completely linear way". 

Yet, the Ellen Macarthur Foundation suggests that "this take-make-dispose model" has huge potential for reform. The report suggests four stages towards a circular economy.

  • Phase out substances of concern and microfibre release
  • Transform the way clothes are designed, sold, and used to break free from their increasingly disposable nature
  • Radically improve recycling by transforming clothing design, collection, and reprocessing
  • Make effective use of resources and move to renewable inputs

 

Image: New Textile Economy

The good news is that many brands are beginning to roll out such changes already. Companies specialising in clothing rental subscriptions – offering monthly exchanges of items – address fast fashion’s shifting trends. Alternative recycled and organic clothing is on the rise. And even some bigger brands, like Levi’s, have committed to using 100% recycled cotton within the next ten years. 

These changes are not just a question of ethics. The overall benefit to the world economy could be about EUR 160 billion in 2030 if the fashion industry were to address the environmental and societal fallout of the current status quo. ‘A new textiles economy would be regenerative and restorative’. And for businesses too. The report suggests that it could help address the decline in the industry’s profits that is expected by 2030.

 

Read our ethical shopping guide to Clothes Shops

 


 

 

 

 


 

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