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.
Stella and Ellen MacArthur call the textiles and fashion industry to action with the launch of the @CircularEconomy… https://t.co/Pc67lrhsWj— Stella McCartney (@Stella McCartney)1511873947.0
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Australia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. It is home to more than 7% of all the world's plant and animal species, many of which are endemic. One such species, the Pharohylaeus lactiferus bee, was recently rediscovered after spending nearly 100 years out of sight from humans.
Scientists have newly photographed three species of shark that can glow in the dark, according to a study published in Frontiers in Marine Science last month.
- 10 Little-Known Shark Facts - EcoWatch ›
- 4 New Walking Shark Species Discovered - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Incredible Species That Glow in the Dark - EcoWatch ›
FedEx's entire parcel pickup and delivery fleet will become 100 percent electric by 2040, according to a statement released Wednesday. The ambitious plan includes checkpoints, such as aiming for 50 percent electric vehicles by 2025.
- Which Is Worse for the Planet: Beef or Cars? - EcoWatch ›
- Greenhouse Gas Levels Hit Record High Despite Lockdowns, UN ... ›
- 1.8 Billion Tons More Greenhouse Gases Will Be Released, Thanks ... ›