Material world: redesigning the fashion industry's environmental impactComments
Fast-fashion’s impact on the planet is immense. The fashion sector has doubled its production in the last 15 years. In recent times, though, there is a growing interest in a more circular production model.
One ‘up-cycling’ brand in Barcelona has already reused 30,000kg of donated denim fabric, as Camilla Corsini, a designer with the Sustainable Fashion Association, Barcelona explains:
“They give it a new use, either by converting it into other products such as bags, purses or by using the waste, re-spinning it, creating a new fabric and from there designing their fashion collection.
Natural fibres, like the cotton in denim, are much easier to recycle than synthetic or mixed ones. In Spain alone 23kg of clothes are discarded every year per person and just 12% of that amount is recycled.
Recycling such products is just one step. It is also important to reduce the consumption of resources and pollution in the process through which the fabrics are made.
Josep Moré is the CEO of a textile finishing and dyeing industry, one of the most polluting in the sector. His factory has achieved a resource consumption reduction thanks to machinery digitalisation that controls water consumption and carbon emissions:
"We have a water treatment plant and we also have filtration equipment for oil collection. The treatment plant is 37 years old and the gas filter is 20 years old. In these 20 years we have collected 59,000 litres of oil that would otherwise go into the atmosphere; oils that have been incorporated into the fabrics," he says.
Moré is also working on an ecological dyeing system, but the fashion industry, he complains, is not ready to pay more for a slow and circular textile model.
Mar Isla, the Chair of Circular Economy and Sustainability at the Pompeu Fabra University agrees:
“The large amount of clothes consumers are in the West but 80% of the production comes from Asia and the way we are producing is also very unequal. We have to change the way we consume. We cannot throw products away. We have to think about it when we go to buy. What happens when a T-shirt is worth €8? What's behind that price?"
While consumers are key to reducing "low-cost" clothing, designers, small producers and researchers say the fashion industry needs to move more quickly to a greener and more circular mode.