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Fashion Industry Report: One Truckload of Clothing Is Wasted Per Second
When we think of environmental foes, the fossil fuel industry is often pegged as one of the biggest villains. But the shirts off our backs also leave a devastating planetary impact.
According to a new report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the fashion industry's current "take-make-dispose" system creates greenhouse gas emissions of 1.2 billion tonnes a year—that's "more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined."
Alarmingly, the negative impacts of the fashion industry are set to drastically increase. "If the industry continues on its current path, by 2050, it could use more than 26 percent of the carbon budget associated with a 2°C pathway," the report warns, referencing the threshold for avoiding dangerous global warming.
The report was produced by the Circular Fibres Initiative (which aims to build a circular economy for textiles starting with clothing) and was co-launched Tuesday by retired English sailor Ellen MacArthur and fashion designer Stella McCartney.
Here are some highlights from the report:
- Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned.
- An estimated $500 billion value is lost every year due to clothing that's barely worn and rarely recycled.
- Less than one percent of material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing.
- Worldwide, clothing utilization—the average number of times a garment is worn before it ceases to be used—has decreased by 36 percent compared to 15 years ago.
- Clothes release half a million tonnes of microfibers into the ocean every year, equivalent to more than 50 billion plastic bottles.
McCartney, a prominent advocate of the green fashion movement, criticized the fashion industry for being "incredibly wasteful and harmful to the environment."
In the U.S., 84 percent of discarded clothes winds up in an incinerator or landfill. As EcoWatch previously reported, Americans' growing consumption of clothing has doubled to 14 million tons per year in less than two decades. The problem is further exacerbated by the increased speed of trend turnover. Fast-fashion outlets, with their quick and voluminous output, quickly change trends to stimulate more sales. However, this means that recent purchases will go out of style sooner than ever before, which means more clothes in the trash bin.
Clothing materials such as acrylic, nylon and polyester have a petroleum base, which means it could take many hundreds of years to fully decompose. And while natural fibers—which include silk, linen, cotton and semi-synthetic fibers (think modal, rayon and Tencel)—are arguably better, they still have a similar decomposition process to food which yields methane. That's not to mention all the bleach, dye and other toxic chemicals used to manufacture clothing that can contaminate water bodies or permeate the air.
Of course, we need to wear clothing. And, yes, we might have to—or simply want to—buy a new pair of pants from time to time. The $1.3 trillion clothing industry employs more than 300 million people along the value chain.
But we can definitely do better—and we must for the sake of the planet.
Notably, the new report also provides workable solutions for the current system. It urges cross-industry collaboration and innovation to achieve a new textiles economy, in which clothing is designed to last longer and be worn more often, be easily rented or resold and recycled, and not release toxins or pollution.
A press release for the report noted that “exploring new materials, pioneering business models, harnessing the power of design, and finding ways to scale better technologies and solutions are all needed to create a new textiles economy."
“The report presents a roadmap for us to create better businesses and a better environment," McCartney said. “It opens up the conversation that will allow us to find a way to work together to better our industry, for the future of fashion and for the future of the planet."
Major brands such as Core Partners H&M, Lenzing, and NIKE Inc., and C&A Foundation as Philanthropic Funder have endorsed the report.
"Today's textile industry is built on an outdated linear, take-make-dispose model and is hugely wasteful and polluting," MacArthur said, adding that the new report "presents an ambitious vision of a new system, based on circular economy principles, that offers benefits to the economy, society, and the environment."
"We need the whole industry to rally behind it," she said.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.