Textiles is one of the largest polluting industry in the world
Textile and garment manufacturing is one of the largest industries in the world, but it is also a major polluter of the environment. China, the largest textile and garment manufacturing hub in the world has polluted 90% of its groundwater. It is estimated that till 2050 global fashion and clothing industry will account for 25% of the carbon budget. On an average, 12.8 million tons of global textile waste ends up in landfills emitting methane gas which is more potent than carbon when it comes to harming the environment. Every washing cycle of synthetic clothes accounts for around 1,900 microfibers in the ocean and as per an estimation, there are already 1.4 trillion microfibers in our ocean. These facts reflect a global challenge that needs to be mitigated immediately.
What can be done to maintain this balance?Sustainability is the solution to maintain harmony between increasing global demand and decreasing natural resources. To achieve it, a combined effort from every value chain member starting from fibre production to garment manufacturing to consumption will be required. In the coming years, sustainability will be driven by the following three wheels:
Manufacturing Excellence: Producing More Emitting LessAdopting manufacturing excellence is the first step towards achieving manufacturing sustainability. It is a combination of small but significant steps such as:
a) Efficient production planning to enhance operational efficiencies and resource utilization
b) Use of new and improved technology to obtain maximum production efficiency, output quality, and cost optimization
c) Incorporating product lifecycle management to achieve material saving and obtain zero defects
d) Integration with IT for achieving the best process control
e) Skill training to improve productivity and reduce wastage
Achieving manufacturing excellence ensures not only the optimum utilization of sewing machine and infrastructure but it also ensures the most efficient use of natural resources thus maintains the right balance.
Compliance norms will need to be met for future survivalDue to growing concerns about the environment and improving transparency in the supply chain due to IT integration, adherence to compliances and standards is no longer an option. International brands use these compliances as a filtering tool for selecting their suppliers and demand strict adherence across the value chain.
Environmental compliance is an issue of grave importance owing to its positive impact on our ecosystem. Use of pesticide-free cotton, incorporation of zero water discharge, recycling and reuse of wastes and by-products, etc. are components of environmental compliances. Complying with these standards helps in creating an environmental balance which is the need of the hour.
To Revive or even to Remain, the industry will need ‘RE’-definingThe efforts required to achieve sustainability are not limited to the manufacturer and brands, consumer awareness about the impact of product lifecycle on the environment also has an important role to play in sustainability. The principles of the circular economy i.e. Recycle, Reuse, Resale, and Rentals are re-defining the ways in which people consume fashion. Recycle: New breakthrough have happened in the area of material recycling wherein used polyester clothing can be recycled through chemical processing to re-produce base raw material i.e. polyester granules which can be used further in the value chain. This technology holds the potential to disrupt the recycle clothing industry by utilizing the existing clothing dump and creating new products.
Reuse: Reuse of garments or other textile products either by fixing or transforming them is another way of extending the lifecycle of textile commodities. Re-using of waste generated throughout the manufacturing of textile products is another way of getting closer towards achieving sustainability.
Resale: Another way of utilizing used clothing is through second-hand sales (resale and thrift & donations). In the United States, approximately 15% of the discarded clothing is given for resale.
Currently, the African population is the major consumer of these second-hand garments mainly imported. However, 12-15% of the Americans are estimated to shop for their clothing at the resale stores, indicating a shift in consumption patterns. Currently, the second sales market stands at US$ 24 Bn. and is expected to reach a level of US$ 51 Bn. by 2023 (16% CAGR). The Resale market is expected to registered high growth (36% CAGR) during the same period to reach a level of US$ 23 Bn. by 2023. Reselling of used garments is both an ecological and economical way of achieving consumption sustainability in the future.
Rentals: In present day scenario, renting your outfits is no longer a stigma but is surely a sign of changing and evolving mindset towards textile consumption. The global online clothing rental market was valued at ~USD 1.1 billion in 2018 and is estimated to reach USD 1.8 billion by 2023, with a CAGR of 10% from 2018 to 2023. Fashion rental has the potential to reduce waste and increase the lifespan of garments, but the most important factor that can lead this trend in future is the engagement and openness to change of consumer and business practices. Adopting sustainable practices is the need of the hour and it reflects an outstanding opportunity for companies to make a significant difference environmentally, economically and socially.