You’re familiar with the dilemma. You ready to go out but when you get to your cupboard you have nothing to wear. It is graveyard of once worn or barely worn outfits.
Do we ever really consider the costs to nature and the environmental footprint of our fashion?
FASHION - THE BIG, BAD AND UGLY TRUTH
The fashion industry produces more carbon emissions annually than all international flights and maritime shipping combined which equates to 10% of annual global carbon emissions.
FASHION AND ITS OVERSIZED WATER FOOTPRINT
3800 litres of clean and drinkable water are used to make one pair of jeans. That’s one litre of drinking water for 3800 days, or one litre of water a day for 10 years!
FASHION – THE ULTIMATE PLASTIC POLLUTER
The fashion industry is responsible for 9% of all microplastic that end up in the ocean every year. That’s equal to 45 million plastic bottles per year.
So, what is the solution to this very big and real problem?
One solution to reduce the negative impact the fashion industry is having on the environment is to move from a linear economy to a circular economy.
WHAT IS A CIRCULAR ECONOMY?
We chatted to Lorren de Kock, the Circular Plastics Economy Project Manager at WWF South Africa who strongly believes that “the plastic pollution crisis is not simply a consumer issue”.
She stated, “For too long the burden of plastic pollution has been laid at the door of consumers and individuals – with a heavy emphasis on awareness, recycling and clean-ups – but it is becoming increasingly clear that the problem of plastic in the environment needs to be tackled by all players.”
We asked Lorren why she thinks large retailers and corporations do not use recycled materials.
Her response cut to the heart of the matter, “With the price of virgin plastic at an all-time low, due to the falling oil price, and massive investment into virgin polymer production, virgin plastic is the cheapest material to procure. This is impacting on the recycling industry which has resulted in a lack of demand for recycled plastic materials.”
Ideally when plastic reaches its end-of-life cycle it should be reintroduced into the production cycle.
FROM A STRAIGHT LINE TO A CIRCLE
The circular economy is based on three principles:
- Design out waste and pollution.
- Keep products and materials in use.
- Regenerate natural systems.
According to a study conducted by the World Bank, the circular economy “entails keeping materials and products in circulation for as long as possible through practices such as reuse of products, sharing of underused assets, repairing, recycling and remanufacturing.”
A July 2019 Worksop on the Circular economy model concluded that; A circular economy aims to minimise the need for extracting primary resources, whilst simultaneously reducing waste.
THE (RUN)WAY FORWARD
The fact that 100 billion new garments are made globally every year it becomes evident that a circular economy is the way forward.
It focuses on improving resource efficiency and resource security, reducing energy and materials consumption, and climate impacts, while offering sources of economic growth and job creation. A circular economy supports improved socio-economic development and well-being, while limiting negative environmental and human health impacts.
So, before you despair, that you have nothing to wear consider what your impact is on the environment. Best practice for sustainable retail consumption is by buying less fast fashion and more good quality garments, and reusing and repairing that way we can all make a difference.
You can check what your carbon footprint using thredUP’s Fashion Footprint Calculator.