Upcoming Circular Model in Clothing Industry

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All photos from Yale E360

Clothing is a daily necessity (a vanguard nudist might disagree with that statement). Every day after getting out of bed we change into a a set of clothes before stepping out of our homes because it is a daily habit that we have adopted even before we had the ability of dressing ourselves when we were babies. This practice we have developed, when you add up clothing that gets worn out and must be replaced, is very costly to the environment considering people in the U.S. dispose of about 12.8 million tons of textiles annually, which amounts to about 80 pounds per person.

Growing cotton, the most-used fabric in fashion, requires water and agricultural chemicals. (Organic cotton is an exception.) While cotton is grown on just 2.4 percent of the world’s cropland, it accounts for 24 percent and 11 percent of global sales of insecticides and pesticides, respectively, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition — an alliance of retailers, brands, and nonprofits — has been working for about five years to measure and reduce the industry’s environmental footprint.

Recycling has become a rallying cry in the apparel industry, with H&M as its most vocal evangelist. The Swedish firm launched a 1-million euro contest to seek out ideas for turning old clothes into new, invested in Worn Again, a company that is developing textile recycling technology, and enlisted hip-hop artist M.I.A. to produce a music video called Rewear It that aims to “highlight the importance of garment collecting and recycling.” With Nike, H&M is a global partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, whose mission is to drive a transition to a circular economy — that is, an industrial system in which everything at the end of its life is made into something new, in contrast to today’s economy, where most consumer goods are produced, used, and then thrown away.

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