Fashion + The Circular Economy

Unlocking a Billion Dollar Opportunity

Approximately 85% of textiles end up in landfills each year, which is the equivalent of 31.5 million truckloads. The scariest part – clothing produced by fast fashion, that has only been used for less than one year, makes up a huge part of those numbers.

You are now probably asking the same question as many others have before. What can the industry do to stop this? And why are we not moving away from the current linear fashion system’s take-make-dispose model? 

What is Circular Fashion?

Good news: the fashion industry has actually started to realise just how urgently the world needs change and what could hopefully outgrow, or even replace, fast fashion in the future.

This is where circularity comes in. According to a recent report there is enormous potential in Circular Fashion. To give you perspective, experts predict it to become a $560 billion industry. But what exactly is it?

The definition of Circular Fashion is yet to be determined. Presently, there are several different thoughts on what it means precisely. For example, here’s how The Ellen MacArthur Foundation described it:  

“One that is restorative and regenerative by design and provides benefits for business, society, and the environment. In such a system, clothes, textiles, and fibres are kept at their highest value during use and re-enter the economy after use, never ending up as waste.”

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation

So, to briefly sum it up, in Circular Fashion, waste and pollution are taken out of the equation and it all starts at the design stage. 

Innovations in the fashion industry

Circularity is still very much untapped and not yet as widespread in the fashion industry as it should be. However, there are quite a few brands and companies already coming up with innovative ideas and technologies. 

Here are three brilliant examples of innovations that are shaping fashion’s circular future.

Softwares for a circular fashion future

When designing clothes, people should not have in mind how many units they can sell. Rather how long those garments can be used and how they can be recycled or reused at their end-of-life.

Circular.fashion is a German start-up that has developed the ‘Circular Design Software’. Their aim is to support suppliers, brands and recycling businesses. With the help of this software, users gain access to countless strategies and solutions to achieve a circular design and guidance on how to implement circularity into their business. On top of that, their circularity.ID creates unique tags for garments to provide information on the product’s entire story in order to ensure a long life cycle and future reuse or recycling.

No more traditional polymers

Average polymers can take over 50 years to biodegrade, which does not sound very promising. However, Mango Materials created an alternative to non-biodegradable polyester – PHA biopolymer pellets. What is most amazing about this material is that it can biodegrade in various environments, including oceans, without leaving any traces of microplastics. So, by using a greenhouse gas to create a biopolymer that completely decomposes after use, this material is a perfect example that traditional polymers are replaceable, it is just a matter of time.

A brighter future for textiles

The terms recycling and upcycling have undoubtedly become a buzzword in the fashion industry. Unfortunately, many brands are using them to greenwash consumers. So, it is even more important to highlight good examples and take this sector of the industry seriously. We need to look at what we now call waste in a different perspective. This way we can avoid dumping more and more garments into landfills in the future.

Novetex Textiles, a Hong Kong-based textile mill has recently launched its upcycling factory called ‘The Billie System’ as a solution to the textile waste issue. This system does not require water or any kind of chemicals to process the textile waste and is able to upcycle excess materials and old garments into fibres that they can later spin into yarns again.

Just imagine how much this could change the industry’s environmental impact if all manufacturers upcycled their textile waste. What a huge step this would be towards circularity.

Change is on its way

This list of innovations is of course far from exhaustive. There are numerous other opportunities that companies could tap into. But we also need to realise that this change to a Circular Fashion industry will and can not happen overnight. And it will require the contribution of everybody.

It will take great effort from both businesses and consumers to make Circular Fashion a reality and without collaborations across the industry and a consumer mindset shift it will not be possible. Fortunately, there are many amazing examples of disruptive brands that can show us that circularity is the future of fashion.

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