Textile manufacturers must take action to fight waste

A focus on ‘circular practices’ is key to making effective change in the textiles manufacturing, a vital move in an industry which expels “98 million tonnes of oil, fertiliser, chemicals and dye, and 93 billion cubic metres of water annually”.

A 2017 report from the Ellen Macarthur Foundation “A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future” highlighted this need for change, warning that continuing with the current industry structure would be “catastrophic”. The report highlighted the question “How can we change a wasteful global apparel industry into one that is restorative and regenerative?” and provided areas of action to move towards a new textiles economy, including investing in research in areas such as “the optimal balance of collection and recycling” and “the economic, environmental, and societal impacts of substances of concern and microfibers in the ocean”, as well as a focus on innovation, policy, transparency, marketing and ‘circular-economy-driven internal strategies’. Much of this change needs to be made at a manufacturing level in order to be effective.

Kia Jiehui principal strategist at Forum for the Future highlighted that “apparel brands which are serious about making the fashion industry circular will only be successful if their suppliers see the value of adopting circular practices as well”, but key obstacles stand in the way of this, she says. According to Jiehui, laborious logistics infrastructure, unequal power dynamics and mismatched motives are stand in the way of effective industry overhaul, but if the whole industry join forces, sustainability challenges can be addressed.

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Sonja DuncanComment