Moving From Linear to Circular: Reducing Textile Waste

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Moving From Linear to Circular: Reducing Textile Waste

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The Circular Fibres Initiative: Disrupting the Paradigm of Create and Waste

The circular economy concept is coming to the fashion industry and this is good news for consumers and the planet. The Ellen McArthur Foundation launched the Circular Fibres Initiative this May 2017. The Initiative targets the textile industry, challenging fashion designers to disrupt the old paradigm of create and waste.

Textile Waste Leaves an Economic and Environmental Footprint

The fashion design model of creating, throwing away, and re-creating produces enough textile waste to fill a garbage truck to capacity every second. And, this waste is going to the landfill. The Ellen McArthur Foundation estimates that around $500 billion in clothing is thrown away every year because of this inefficient model. Garments are worn perhaps once or twice and then discarded to the trash heap, rather than being recycled. Roughly half a million tons of microfibers are dumped in the ocean annually. This is equivalent to in excess of 50 million plastic bottles. Much attention has been placed on cleaning up plastics from the ocean waters and floor, but who is even aware of the vast amounts of dumping of fibers and other refuse from the fashion design industry? The impact is even more severe.

The Circular Economy Model

The “Circular Fibres Initiative” is meant to take the circular economy theory and apply it to fashion design. In a nutshell, the circular economy model is shifting from a wasteful production system to one that resourceful. It is more than living with a mindset of limiting waste and recycling. The circular economy mentality is endemic in the entire production process, from the very beginning of conception to final output. When operating with a circular economy mentality, the goal is to make a product that has many lives.

This is a vast departure from the linear model that is still very prevalent today. In the linear model, a product is designed, used, and then discarded. The circular economy model is about extending the life of a product, keeping it in use for as long as possible, re-using its components, and regenerating as much of it as possible. This begins with designing products and resources that last as long as possible, and that can be easily re-designed or refurbished or recycled. Further, to minimize environmental impact, the focus should be to design resources that, when they do finally come to the end of their circular life, can be disposed of in a way that is not harmful to the earth’s fragile ecosystem. The circular economy framework is not new. However, it has yet to become the norm.

Challenging Designers to Think Circular

The Circular Fibres Initiative challenges leaders of the fashion design industry to develop new models that will result in affordable clothing that will last longer, can be resold or rented, recycled and be a contributor to environmental sustainability. The Initiative recognizes the tremendous creative powers of the fashion design industry, which organizers believe can be harnessed to create this new paradigm.

The Ellen McArthur Foundation realizes it is raising the bar and presenting quite a challenge to the industry. However, the Initiatives visionaries believe that with collective wisdom and effort and the collaboration of a wide spectrum of partners, the goals are achievable.