Billions of dollars are being lost and half a million tonnes of microplastics are being released into the environment by the global clothing and textiles industries every year, according to a new report released by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation today (Tuesday, November 28).
A new textiles economy: Re-designing fashion’s future presents a radical rethink for the fashion and textiles industries – breaking away from the outdated practices that have led them to become a major source of pollution and waste.
The vision explores how pioneering business models, new materials and innovative design can move those industries towards a system in which clothing lasts longer, is easier to recycle and does not release toxins or pollution.
The need to make that shift is laid bare by the report, which reveals that clothing and textiles production releases 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases every year – more than the combined emissions for all international flights and shipping.
Currently, the equivalent of one garbage truck of clothing and textiles is landfilled or burned every second, while just 1% of clothing is recycled into new clothing.
Each year half a million tonnes of microfibres are released into the ocean from clothing and textiles, the equivalent of more than 50 billion plastic bottles. These microfibres are impossible to clean up and enter the food chain.
“Trends point to these negative impacts rising inexorably, with the potential for catastrophic outcomes in the future,” the report warns.
Ellen MacArthur said: “Today’s textile industry is built on an outdated linear take-make-dispose model and is hugely wasteful and polluting.
“This report presents an ambitious vision of a new system, based on circular economy principles that offers benefits to the economy, society and the environment.
“We need the whole industry to rally behind it.”
The report, which is part of an ongoing Circular Fibres Initiative at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, has already been backed industry leaders, including renowned designer Stella McCartney.
“What really excites me about ‘A new textiles economy’ is that it provides solutions to an industry that is incredibly wasteful and harmful to the environment.
“The report presents a roadmap for us to create better businesses and a better environment. It opens up the conversation that will allow us to find a way to work together to better our industry, for the future of fashion and for the future of the planet,” she said.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation said the move to a circular economy model for the textiles industry, which eliminates waste, retains the value of materials and regenerates environmental systems, would take ‘an unprecedented scale and depth of collaboration.’
“Existing activities focused on sustainability or partial aspects of the circular economy should be complemented by a concerted, global approach that matches the scale of the opportunity. Such an approach would rally key industry players and others stakeholders behind the objectives of a new textiles economy, set ambitious joint commitments, kick start cross value chain demonstrator projects and orchestrate and reinforce complementary initiatives,” the report concludes.
If the industry can make the switch to the circular economy, there are huge potential gains financially, with the loss of value from clothes that are hardly worn and barely recycled estimated to be $500 billion a year.
H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson said: “This ground-breaking report lays the foundation for a new mindset and creates a shared vision for a circular fashion industry.”
“It’s a call for action for systemic collaborations and is aligned with our efforts in making sure that economic and social development can happen in a way that the planet can afford.”
See the report in full at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation website
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