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New report reveals fashion industry puts equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles into the ocean every year.

Posted on Nov 28, 2017 11:25:21 AM

Ellen MacArthur and Stella McCartney at the launch of the report. "...a roadmap for us to create better businesses and a better environment."

 The shocking wastefulness of the fashion industry and consumer attitudes has been laid bare in a new report. Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned. An estimated USD 500 billion value is lost every year due to clothing that’s barely worn and rarely recycled in the 'take-make-dispose' model that is prevalent in the west. In a truly stunning stat – the report claims that if nothing changes, by 2050 the fashion industry will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget. As well as being wasteful, the industry is polluting: clothes release half a million tonnes of microfibres into the ocean every year, equivalent to more than 50 billion plastic bottles. Microfibres are almost impossible to clean up and are now found in food chains for animals and humans alike. This is without considering the human cost of manufacture – with ‘fast fashion’ often manufactured in in sweat-shops using child labour. This new report, published today, by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and supported by fashion designer Stella McCartney A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashion’s future -  aims to remove our ignorance from how our clothes are manufactured.

The report, launched in London, presents a positive new vision for a new system. In a new textiles economy clothes would be designed to last longer, be worn more and be easily rented or resold and recycled, and would not release toxins or pollution. Exploring new materials, pioneering business models, harnessing the power of design, and finding ways to scale better technologies and solutions are all needed to create a new textiles economy.

Speaking at the publication of the report, sailor turned circular economy champion Ellen MacArthur; “Today’s textile industry is built on an outdated linear, take-make-dispose model and is hugely wasteful and polluting. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s ( @circulareconomy )  report presents an ambitious vision of a new system, based on circular economy principles, that offers benefits to the economy, society, and the environment. We need the whole industry to rally behind it.”

Negative impacts of textiles industry by 2050 (Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation)

Leading fashion designer and long-time supporter of a renewable fashion Stella McCartney ( @StellaMcCartneyalso at the launch told journalists; “What really excites me about ‘A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashion’s future’ is that it provides solutions to an industry that is incredibly wasteful and harmful to the environment. The report presents a roadmap for us to create better businesses and a better environment. It opens up the conversation that will allow us to find a way to work together to better our industry, for the future of fashion and for the future of the planet.”

Creating a new textiles economy (Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation)

Creating a new textiles economy will need an unprecedented scale of collaboration across the fashion business. Industry leaders including Core Partners H&M, Lenzing, and NIKE Inc., and C&A Foundation as a Philanthropic Funder, endorse the new vision and report, to which they and over 40 influential fashion brands, leading businesses, NGOs, public bodies, and experts have contributed. McKinsey & Company has contributed research and analysis.

Now the Ellen MacArthur Foundation is calling on the entire industry to rally behind this new vision and to launch a new wave of cross-industry collaboration and innovation to achieve it. By presenting a clear understanding of the challenges faced and the economic opportunities, as well as practical levers for business, innovation and policy action, the New Textiles Economy report is a vital step in an industry-led approach to develop a global textiles system fit for the 21st Century.

It's a particulalry timely report, coming hard on the heels of a recent survey of 2000 British shoppers from waste and recycling experts, WRAP, who found that  only 63 per cent say they look for durability when buying a piece of new clothing.  Whilst only 29 per cent of shoppers see it as "important" that clothes are ethically produced, and a mere 23 per cent actively look out for ethical production information when shopping.

Read the full report here.

A more sustainable fashion industry will be one of the topics at World Bio Markets 2018 (Amsterdam, March 20th-22nd)  which features speakers including Gabe Davies (European Surf Manager, Patagonia), Reimer Ivang (CEO, Better World Fashion) and Eva Van Der Brugge (Innovation Manager, Fashion for Good) focussing on this area.  


You may also be interested in...  

Read: adidas committed to "redefining the sports industry" with biodegradable trainers.

Expert View: Fast-fashion retailer H&M "conscious" to deliver sustainable solutions.

Read: Ecover launches bottle made from 50% ocean plastic. 

Download: Issue #7 of the Bio-Based World Quarterly;  


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Luke Upton
Luke Upton
Luke has edited this site since its launch and previously worked for b2b media companies across industries including energy, advertising and sport. His role includes writing, editing and commissioning...read more