Fashion has turned into one of the principal polluters in the recent years, as being part of the Industry and Production sector, which uses burned fossil fuels to convert raw materials into new products like clothes, in this case. In this way, fashion places just behind Energy and Transportation, awaking the urgency to act responsibly for a better world. That´s why the circular economy can be the answer.
What is the circular economy?
Looking beyond the current end-of-life industrial model with a hyper-consumption society, the circular economy aims to redefine the way we produce and consume by using renewable energy, eliminating the use of toxic chemicals, and maybe most importantly, the elimination of waste through the superior design of materials, products, systems, and business models. All these efforts have the objective of focusing on positive society-wide benefits in economic and environmental aspects.
The circular economy model is based on three principles:
- Design out waste and pollution.
- Keep products and materials in use.
- Regenerate natural systems.
The “Redefining Value, The Manufacturing Revolution” United Nations Environment 2018 report, states that a circular economy could reduce industrial waste in some sectors by 80 to 99% and its emissions by 79 to 99%.
Circular economy for the fashion industry
We cannot imagine a world without textiles and clothing, as they are part of our everyday life and a huge player in the global economy. But at the way we are consuming with options like the “fast fashion” models, people buy and throw out a huge amount of clothes faster than ever, as a result, clothing production has doubled in the period from 2000 to 2014 and keeps this tendency. According to UN information, making one pair of jeans requires about 7,500 liters of water, the equivalent of the amount of this vital liquid that an average person drinks in seven years.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, launched in 2010 to accelerate the transition to a circular economy (in collaboration with business, government, and academia), is one of the main actors in this new model, and talking about the fashion industry, here is some data they are sharing to work with:
- By moving to a circular system, the industry can unlock a USD 560 billion economic opportunity.
- Creating business models that are restorative and regenerative, relying on three focus areas: new business models that increase clothing use, safe and renewable inputs, and solutions so used clothes are turned into new.
- Ensuring clothing is durable, not disposable. There are numerous opportunities for innovative business models to be employed by the fashion industry, including subscription services, clothing rental, and peer-to-peer sharing.
- The case for new business models improves when clothes are of high-quality and durable.