In this post, we will show you it is possible to significantly decrease waste related to your clothes. However, we do not pretend to tell you that it is easy to go 100% waste-free when it comes to your wardrobe.
Nevertheless, there are a few changes you can make to help you become a better Zero Waster.
Facts And Numbers In The Fashion Industry
Most of us are aware of what causes harm to our planet: taking planes, buying cars, throwing disposable items, etc. However, it is not as obvious how much harm fashion causes the planet.
The numbers highlighted in Business Insider are staggering: the fashion industry produces 10% of the world’s carbon emissions. That represents more carbons than international flights and maritime shipping combined.
It has recently become more affordable to buy clothes, but ‘fast fashion’ comes with a considerable price to pay for the planet.
Thus, it is estimated that in terms of clothes production, the numbers have doubled since 2000. The other consequence of fast fashion is the number of textiles sent to landfills(about 85%).
If you are still in doubt, here is another statistic: As of 2014, people buy 60 % more clothes in comparison to the beginning of the century, but they keep them only for half as long.
Moreover, it is estimated that the fashion industry is the second-largest consumer of water supply and the second-biggest water polluter worldwide.
Which makes the agricultural sector the primary cause of water degradation in the world. To give you an example, for each pair of jeans produced, the fashion industry will need 2,000 gallons of water.
While the fashion industry is partly responsible, we should also be aware of the damage we do just by washing our clothes in a non Zero Waste way(Here’s a better way to do it).
It is roughly estimated that each year, using our washing machines means releasing 500,000 tons of microfibers into the ocean. To put it simply, this represents the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles.
Minimizing this number is one of the key principles of Zero Waste. Hence, why we need to reduce these numbers significantly.
The issue mainly comes from synthetic materials such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon. They represent about 60% of the clothing material around the world.
Why the popularity? They are affordable, resistant, and readily available.
Whether at the manufacturing stage or when being washed at home, these types of clothes release harmful microplastic that cannot decompose.
Therefore, because water treatment plants cannot filter them, they end up polluting the oceans and seriously endangering marine life.
Can The Fashion Industry Help Towards a Zero Waste Wardrobe?
Bearing in mind the above numbers, you can wonder whether sustainable Zero Waste solutions are conceivable.
The issue of synthetic microfiber pollution will not be solved in one day, as natural materials also come with harmful effects on the environment.
However, there is an increased collaborative effort in the fashion industry to decrease waste and pollution linked to clothing manufacturing.
There is a growing number of marketing campaigns that raise awareness of these issues.
For example, Ocean Clean Wash has shared their solutions that companies should be working on, such as filtration systems or enhanced textile design.
Moreover, it seems that there is a growing interest in the fashion industry to recycle clothing and therefore reduce its related waste.
Of course, it offers the brands good press, but also, it opens the door to business opportunities, as you can use the same product more than once.
However, this also poses the question of whether these take-back programs might not encourage even more fast fashion as we know it.
Even though recycling might seem a sustainable alternative, there is still the question of what to do with damaged textiles.
Indeed, around 40 to 50% of the collected clothes are too damaged to be salvaged. And, ends up in warehouses, currently without a viable outcome.
Even though there have been improvements, it appears that there is a lack of scalable options for big brands to be able to increase the number of recycled materials significantly.
What About Certifications & Laws?
Part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are social fairness, sustainable production, and consumption(among others).
There is a growing number of essential non-profit institutions working to establish global standards.
The Cradle to Cradle certification is recognized around the world as an international standard for more sustainable products made for the circular economy.
It enables customers to evolve towards responsible purchasing decisions, for all types of goods (clothes, fragrances, water bottles, etc.).
For a product to be certified, it has to go through an assessment of five critical sustainability categories.
Have a look at their website for a glimpse at their logo and description for each achievement level.
When it comes to laws and directives, the EU passed a circular economy package in 2018 that will ensure each Member State will collect textiles by 2025. To address the environmental issues detailed above, the EU has promoted different solutions:
- Implement circular fashion: i.e., make reuse and recycling of textiles easier.
- Encourage slow fashion: i.e., convince customers to buy fewer clothes of better quality.
- In general, promote sustainable options such as the use of sustainable raw materials.
What Can We Do Towards a Zero Waste Wardrobe?
At Puratium, we encourage you first to target a low Waste wardrobe while minimizing water pollution as much as possible.
1. On the wardrobe side:
- Avoid sending your clothes to landfill: donate or sell them as much as possible.
- If you need new clothes, buy them second hand. There is a growing number of platforms online that allow you to do so (for example, Thredup, mainly in the US, and Vinted, mostly in Europe).
- If you need to replace clothes, choose sustainable materials, i.e., avoid cotton, synthetics, and animal-derived materials, and go for human-made cellulose or bast fibers. Have a look at this interesting article from the Independent for more details.
- Be brave (and realistic): only keep 25 to 30 pieces of clothing you love and feel comfortable wearing. Slowly, we hope you will realize you do not need to buy much more unless it is for a – very – special occasion.
- What about damaged clothes, including underwear, toys or shoes? If you live in the US, have a look at what the American Textile Recycling Service proposes. They will gladly take them!
- Whatever you cannot donate or recycle: you might compost. However, this is only for clothes made of 100% natural-fiber materials such as cotton.
If you are a fantastic dressmaker, we would love to challenge you to enter the Zero Waste community; if you can repair all your clothes endlessly, please share any tips with us! And if you are not: why not enroll in a workshop and learn the ropes?
2. On the washing side:
- At home, make sure you fill up your machine with your wardrobe clothes as much as possible to reduce friction, and therefore the release of harmful microfibers.
- Wash at low temperature (warm temperature can release these microfibers more easily) and use short programs.
- Use liquid and not powder as detergent, as the powder can more easily ‘scrub’ the fibers.
We hope that the overview of the fashion industry’s numbers and related impacts on the planet was an eye-opener for you.
Most importantly, we hope this article has convinced you to change your habits as customers and start your journey towards a Low Waste wardrobe.
Lastly, at Puratium, we believe it is important to share practical tips, such as the C2C label or the choice of raw material, to reach a minimalist – and high quality – closet.