Europe’s efforts to improve circularity in the textile industry
At present, the EU generates 12.6 million tonnes of textile waste per year. Fast fashion is a global problem, and businesses and consumers alike are all guilty of contributing to this growing phenomenon. Clothing and footwear alone account for 5.2 million tonnes of waste every year (that’s 12 kg of waste per person every year). Fast-fashion brands such as SHEIN, H&M, Zara, and ASOS can entice customers with low prices for pieces that are still considered high quality, despite them producing greenhouse gases, excessive waste, and a shorter lifespan due to the fabrics used.
The EU Commission is aiming to make producers responsible for the full lifecycle of textile products, to “create a greener, more competitive textiles sector”. According to the EU Commission, “textiles are the fabric of everyday life – in clothes and furniture, medical and protective equipment, buildings and vehicles. However, urgent action is needed as their impact on the environment continues to grow. EU consumption of textiles has, on average, the fourth highest impact on the environment and climate change, after food, housing and mobility. It is also the third highest area of consumption for water and land use, and fifth highest for the use of primary raw materials and greenhouse gas emissions.”
We speak about a “circular economy” here a lot at Superfy, and with the EU only achieving an 11.8% circular material use rate, change needs to happen fast. By 2050, we could be consuming 3x more than our planet can handle: “There is only one planet Earth, yet by 2050, the world will be consuming as if there were three”.
Which countries are leading change with fast fashion?
Scandinavia (Sweden, Denmark and Norway)
Scandinavia has already been ranked as the world’s most sustainable tourist region, and is leading the way when it comes to sustainable fashion efforts. Whether it’s cancelling global events such as fashion week to stand in solidarity with circular fashion, or publicly pledging their efforts to become more circular, countries within the Scandi region are holding themselves accountable.
Although the United Kingdom isn’t at the same level of circularity as Scandinavian countries, the interest in sustainable fashion and circular consumption at a grassroots level is there. According to fast fashion sustainability research, the UK appears to be one of the more interested nations in sustainable fashion, however its’ performance on recycling and reuse is still subpar.
However, a grassroots or consumer approach isn’t going to tackle the problem. Businesses and organisations within the textile’s industry are the ones responsible – and there’s hope that the EU Commission and their pledge/plan will make a difference in the long-term. Critics have already identified loopholes in the EU Commission’s plan, stating “circular designs and business models can reduce the negative consequences of textile production. But Janek Vähk, zero pollution policy manager at Zero Waste Europe, points out that the EU hasn’t made sufficient progress towards achieving a circular economy.”
A lot of organisations within the textiles industry have also become masters of disguise, using “greenwashing” as a way to hide their lack of effort when it comes to operating in a circular way. This then becomes a domino effect at a consumer level as consumers are “greenwashed” into thinking that their purchases are sustainable. Fashion brands such as H&M and Urban Outfitters have been accused of greenwashing campaigns as a way to cover up their sustainability efforts.
The Australian Fashion Council (AFC) has launched the National Clothing Product Stewardship Scheme called “Seamless” to tackle clothing waste in Australia. Six major brands, including Big W and David Jones, have signed up as founding members, pledging a 4 cent per garment levy on sales for initiatives like sustainable design and textile recycling. Of the close to 400,000 tonnes of clothes imported or produced in Australia each year, half ends up in landfill, with only 2% getting recycled.
At present, Canadians dump 500M Kg of textiles a year. Fashion consumption in particular is at a high, and researchers are working hard to reduce waste and encourage more circular approaches to textile management and consumption.
“The researchers looked at a new method that would grade the clothing from A to F to decide if the garments could be resold, recycled or tossed. They say that by looking at the clothing this way, more than half of the textiles could be reused while another quarter could be recycled.”
Efficient and sustainable clothing and textiles recycling
As the fashion industry continues to transform textile products into fast-moving fashion items, their lifespan before disposal is decreasing, resulting in a significant increase in textile waste. Textile reuse and recycling offer environmental benefits compared to incineration and landfilling, but challenges remain around efficient collection systems and automating sorting processes.
Using the Superfy platform and range of smart container solutions increases productivity and reduces environmental impact for textile collection and recycling. Our platform gives enterprises control over their clothing and textiles recycling, enabling them to hit their sustainability goals whilst also having complete oversight on the level of textile waste within their businesses.
Recycling and collection initiatives
We want to support organisations involved in collection and recycling. Our technology helps to make this process more efficient. Our software shows companies the amount of waste they have as well as its distribution: for example, plastic, cardboard and textiles. See where it’s gone to and then that can be used for corporate social responsibility (CSR) and extended producer responsibility (EPR) initiatives. This gives power back to the organisations that work with Superfy whilst also having the best data to support their initiatives.
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