The most essential and fundamental requirement of daily living is clothing, just like the requirement for food and a place to live. Additionally contributing significantly to the overall size of the economy is the textile and garment industry. However, the industry is expanding in a linear fashion, and this growth pattern is neither environmentally friendly or sustainable enough for the world. The concepts underlying the circular economy need to be implemented in this particular field. In order to accomplish the same, there are three primary areas that require attention. These include:
- Increasing the amount of times clothes is worn by putting new business models into effect.
- the use of renewable and environmentally friendly materials and sources of energy
- a recycling-oriented approach to the design of the solution
The global market for textiles and garments is estimated to be worth $1.3 trillion. Across the entirety of the supply chain, it is responsible for the employment of 300 million people. A research by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation found that the proportion of garment production to total textile output is sixty percent (60%). According to the findings of the survey, the volume of clothes that is produced today is roughly equivalent to that which was manufactured 15 years ago. As a result of this, the number of times that these clothing are worn has dropped by forty percent. This is because of the expansion of the fast fashion garment production industry, which produces items with a shorter lifespan, a greater number of collections annually, and lower prices.
According to the findings of the paper, the transformation of the textile and clothing industry into a circular economy may present an opportunity with an estimated economic worth of approximately 560 billion dollars. This will require the adoption of novel economic models as well as the concerted effort of all parties involved in the supply chain.
The textile and garment business faces a variety of issues with the model that it uses currently. This begins with the significant underutilization of clothing on a global scale. The rates are significantly greater in nations with poorer incomes. On the other hand, rates tend to fall in nations with increased incomes. For instance, the rate in the United States is only a quarter of what it is in the rest of the world. It is estimated that consumers throw away garments that are still in good condition every year, which results in a loss of value equal to 460 billion dollars. After only seven to eight uses, some pieces of clothes are considered worn out and need to be thrown away.
The carbon footprint left by this industry is likewise significantly large. The majority of the sector’s support comes from non-renewable resources. The annual demand for resources is around 98 million metric tonnes. This consists of oils that are used for the creation of synthetic fibres, fertilisers and pesticides that are used for the production of cotton, and chemicals that are used for dying and finishing clothes. This dependence, in combination with low rates of use and low levels of recycling, exerts a significant amount of strain on the environment and the resources that it provides. The pollution that is created as a result of this industry is also helping to pave the way for a temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius by the year 2050.
As a result, it is essential for the textile and garment sector to transition to a model of doing business that is circular. In its paper titled “A New Textiles Economy,” the Ellen Macarthur Foundation presents a vision for the future of the textile industry that is in line with the principles of circular economy. Because these forms of doing business are restorative and regenerative, they should be helpful not only for the economy but also for society and the environment. The utilisation phase is the goal of this system, which aims to maintain the best possible value for clothes, textiles, and fibres. After their useful lives have passed, these garments should still be able to participate in the market and should never be considered waste. The preceding discussion and the figure that follows both depict the three focus areas that form the foundation of this paradigm.
A circular system such as this one will have certain characteristics in common. To begin, the finished garment that results from using such a model needs to be of a high standard and long-lasting. However, at the same time, these outfits ought to be accessible to a wider variety of people financially and exhibit individuality. Consumers ought to have access to the articles of apparel that meet their requirements. The goal of this type of business strategy should be to give customers access to clothing that would not be within their price range if purchased through more conventional channels. These garments’ conception and manufacture ought to be of a high quality and ought to have as their primary focus the provision of various functionalities and a degree of adaptability.
Second, the system needs to be able to account for the entire potential value of an item of clothing both while it is being used and after it has been used. Because of the economy, more people are wearing clothes. When the clothes can no longer be worn, they should be recycled because they are no longer usable. Because of this, the system will be able to determine the value of the raw materials that are utilised on a separate level. It is essential that any new designs be crafted in such a way that they are compatible with the idea of recycling if this function is to be a commercial success.
Third, a system like this one needs to be able to function using only renewable resources, both in terms of its energy supply and its material supply. The use of energy sources that do not deplete natural resources will lessen reliance on fuel sources and make the system more environmentally friendly. In addition to the recycled inputs, the usage of renewables will guarantee that the system will spend less energy and a smaller amount of its available resources.
Fourth, the pricing of the products will reflect the actual costs of the materials and methods used in their production, as predicted by this model. It is important that the price of the product accurately represent not just the costs of production, but also the adverse effects on the environment and society.
Fifth, the new economy based on textiles is expected to be beneficial to the natural environment by regenerating it rather than polluting it. The naturally occurring renewable resources that were just outlined should be harvested utilising practises that are both restorative and regenerative. Because of this, the natural capital will ultimately expand. The use of regenerative agriculture techniques, such as those based on wood, will be encouraged, and the architecture of the system will prevent the escape of hazardous chemicals and microfibers of plastic.
Last but not least, the structure ought to be distributive by its very nature. The emergence of a new textiles economy will create openings for distributive and equitable forms of economic expansion. This will result in the creation of an ecosystem in which both small and large businesses have an equal opportunity to succeed, leading to the generation of sufficient value for all stakeholders to participate in full.
The fashion industry needs to establish new business models in order to maintain the garments in the usage phase of the circular economy. This can be accomplished by ensuring that the clothing are long-lasting rather than disposable in nature. Additionally, this will assist in changing the perception of customers. There are a number of creative business concepts that are working toward the goal of filling this need. The subscription and rental models, in addition to the peer-to-peer sharing model, are included in this category of business models.
It may be to the consumer’s advantage to rent models in situations in which they will have access to a diverse range of options. This will also result in a reduction in the demand for the creation of new clothing items. In a market where customer requirements and preferences are consistently shifting, short-term rental models have a massive potential to improve their value proposition. This category includes things like clothes for pregnant women and infants, as well as the rapidly evolving clothing of the fast fashion industry.
It is essential that the clothing be long-lasting and of a high-quality construction in order to ensure the success of the rental models. Products with a higher quality standard typically get more consumer interest. However, due to a lack of information, they make decisions that aren’t in their best interests. Customization of clothes is now possible thanks to advances in technology, which may increase levels of consumer satisfaction and decrease the amount of clothing that is discarded. The ability to resell is another benefit that comes with purchasing durable clothing. A longer lifespan for the garments can also be achieved by the inclusion of appropriate care labels. It is also possible for brands to provide repair services for their clothing, which helps ensure that worn-out items are not thrown away and enables businesses to realise their full revenue potential.
But all of these things converge on one point, and that point is the question of what the duty of a human is in order to make this system work in practise. As customers, it is necessary for us to take a moment to pause, think, and reflect. This transition absolutely requires a shift in both one’s mentality and one’s general routines of behaviour. The adoption of new and innovative business models, designing from waste, and designing in a way that ensures recyclability are the keys that will open an infinite number of chances and possibilities in the textile and fashion sectors.