According to Nick Thorpe, a senior journalist at BBC, the problem with the current society is not that it values materialistic things more, but that it does not do so enough. What makes a one-dollar t-shirt so inexpensive? It is a combination of various factors, including poor-quality materials, high mechanization, mass production techniques, outsourcing to garment exporting countries, and underpaid labor. Fast and cheap fashion comes at the cost of harming the environment and the workforce as most of the clothing ends up in landfills. Circularity is the fashion industry’s future, as it considers the whole lifecycle of the product. Here’s why.
What is the Prevailing Problem in the Clothing Industry?
As mass production, quick turnaround, and minimal labor are the main focuses of clothing manufacturers, they often find it easy to turn a blind eye towards issues like surplus use of pesticides, high chemical runoff, excess water consumption, and labor exploitation longstanding carbon footprint. Given that the clothing items are not the best quality and people have developed a use-and-throw culture, many garments are rarely used till the end of their lifespan. They end up in landfills and litter the places initially manufactured. According to the Australian Assistant Minister of Waste Reduction and Environment Management, Australian citizens dispose of over 800,000 tonnes of textile waste and clothing every year at a rate of 90 tonnes per hour. The entire industry has been massively underutilizing the fabric available to them. The effect of the fashion industry on the environment and society and the cost they must pay for it is slowly gaining awareness today.
How Does the Clothing Material Flow Differently in Circular Economy?
Since the industrial revolution, the traditional economic flow of any manufactured good has been in the form of a take-make-waste linear model. It had given a higher priority to manufacturing processes that convert raw materials into finished products, which usually end up in landfills after-sales. Contrastingly, circularity proposes a cyclical approach to production and consumption. It aims to create value for these items with the minimal procurement of virgin raw materials, leaving no carbon footprint and higher profits to organizations in the long run. The circular economy model focuses on utilizing raw materials like wool and cotton that have the potential for reusability, recyclability, and scalability. And on a system that encompasses a closed loop using renewable energy. The prevalence of the method is not just to cause minimal harm to the environment but to repair the damage that the industry has already caused.
Cyclical Close-loop Model of Circularity
One of the prominent models in the circular economy views the raw materials circulating in two distinct cycles. The first is the bio cycle of the organic raw materials that manufacturers procure, and the second is the techno cycle involving the synthetic or technical materials and their use. The aim is to produce clothing with materials with the highest durability, giving users the ability to use them for the longest time possible, followed by easy access to reuse and recycle the products. At the end of their usage cycle, the organic materials produced from the bio cycle would go back into the system to create a more decadent organic production system. And the synthetic materials go back to the manufacturing units to be recycled into other usable products. The model involves the use of renewable fibers, mono and recycled materials, zero waste pattern making, renewable energy, closed-loop process, recyclable and compostable packing, rental services, repair, and maintenance, along take-back schemes, focusing on energy conservation at every stage.