The UK fashion industry is still booming. Clothing is fourth after housing, transport and food in terms of its impact on the environment, which means that 26 million tonnes of CO2 have been generated. However, it shows some potential for the sustainable clothing market. Looking to promote this opportunity is WRAP, a not-for-profit organisation driving economic and environmental change. They have conducted research which examines how the UK consumer is more conscious about the life-cycle of their clothing. After a three year study, WRAP discovered that 50,000 tonnes fewer items of clothing disposed of in household bins; more people are washing their clothes at cooler temperatures which is helping to lessen the environmental impact of the UK’s wardrobes.
"These savings represent the equivalent of one-and-a-half hot air balloons worth of carbon saved per tonne of clothing."
Since WRAP ( @WRAP_UK ) first highlighted the environmental impact of UK clothing in its pioneering 2012 report the amount of clothing discarded in residual waste has fallen by approximately 50,000 tonnes. The current estimate of clothing going into household bins has dropped from 350,000 tonnes (2012) to 300,000 tonnes (2015), a reduction equivalent in weight to more than 300 Jumbo Jets.
Part of their initiatives saw them working closely with major clothing designers, brands, manufacturers, retailers, fashion houses and re-use & recycling organisations to drive forward more sustainable production and buying practices, and increase textiles re-use and recycling. This has been achieved through a range of SCAP initiatives varying from sustainable fibre procurement, to advice and support for households on caring for clothes and working to increase reuse and recycling. SCAP membership grew quickly and now accounts for more than half of the UK clothing market.
Midway through the agreement, and signatories have made significant improvements; reducing carbon by 10.6%; water by 13.5% and waste across the product lifecycle by 0.8% - per tonne of clothing. These savings represent the equivalent of one-and-a-half hot air balloons worth of carbon saved per tonne of clothing sold by SCAP signatories. Enough water to fill 23,000 bath tubs (or nearly 3 Olympic sized swimming pools) per tonne of clothing, and the equivalent of 30 pairs of women’s jeans saved from waste for every tonne sold.
As a nation, more people are beginning to launder their clothes at lower temperatures; turning the heat down from 40 to 30 degrees. The regular use of tumble-dryers and ironing has also fallen according to WRAP’s consumer research. These combined changes in behaviour have helped cut approximately 700,000 tonnes CO2 from UK emissions, each year.
Speaking about the success of the SCAP signatories, Steve Creed, Director Business Programme WRAP said, “I am delighted by how well SCAP signatories are doing… And having high-street names like M&S, Tesco and Sainsbury’s setting ambitious sustainable cotton targets will help ease the pressure on some of the world’s most water-sensitive countries.”
“It’s great too that fewer clothes are ending up in the residual waste, but overall our carbon footprint is rising so the next few years are critical in balancing growing demand with supplying clothes more sustainably. I’m confident SCAP will play a big part in helping to make this happen, and make sustainable fashion much more mainstream.”
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