In recent years it has become increasingly clear that trend-driven ‘fast fashion’ has some significant environmental costs, but that could change in the future as the industry becomes increasingly aware of the social and environmental impact of their products.
It’s estimated the fashion industry produces 100 billion new items of clothing every year, with the majority made from virgin resources. Three out of five of those items wind up in landfill within 12 months of being bought. A recent report from Stand.Earth found the industry is responsible for 8% of global climate pollution, with total emissions that would make it the fourth largest climate polluter on Earth if it were a country.
However, there are some companies and initiatives in the garment industry that are attempting to improve sustainability and environmental outcomes. Here are just a few.
Making fibres from fruit
The majority of new clothes on the market are made from cotton, a highly water-intensive crop, and polyester, a synthetic fibre derived from petroleum, which contributes significantly to the environmental impact of the clothes made from them. It might sound a little fruity, but replacements to these fibres might lie in using innovative solutions such as pineapple ‘leather’ and banana ‘sylk’. These products are made from parts of the fruits that would usually be classified as waste, making them far more environmentally friendly than the usual materials.
3-D printing your own clothes
Ever bought something that lies in your wardrobe for all its days because it doesn’t quite fit? What about all those garments made in outlier sizes that never get sold? The answer might lie in 3-D printing, a process that could avoid excess production and wasted stock by ensuring any design you purchase fits your body perfectly. Think of it as bespoke garment printing.
The 'recommerce' revolution
More and more fashion brands are engaging in ‘recommerce’ where old clothes are refurbished or remanufactured rather than ending up in the bin. Clothes are returned to the shop they were purchased from where they are processed, reinvigorated and, eventually, sold online for less than the price of new items. The person returning a garment receives store credit in return.
It is still early days and it remains to be seen whether changes in the industry will be supported by consumers, but there are positive signs of a coming sustainable revolution in fashion.
- Avoid throwing clothes in the bin. If they are beyond donating to charity try reusing them as rags at home or donate to a nearby rag company.
- Check RecyclingNearYou for more advice on what to do with used clothing or other textiles.
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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.