Why clothes should be designed to turn into dirt
The fashion industry is one of the world’s most polluting. Some 92 million tons of textile waste are created globally every year, and the majority of these garments are made out of nonbiodegradable and polluting plastics. As dump sites overflow and toxic waste seeps into our oceans, the question is: Can fashionable ever be sustainable?
We think so, but it’s going to take a lot of work and demand a whole new mindset from manufacturers and consumers alike to get there.
There’s been increasing interest in the development of sustainable materials on the part of fashion houses, with various brands announcing green initiatives, and footwear companies utilizing more materials like cotton and natural rubber, promoting their biodegradable properties. While these initiatives are certainly helping create new, more “Earth-friendly” trends, this step in the right direction may be much smaller than people realize.
How do we convince consumers to return their end-of-use clothing to such a take-back point on the way to biocycling, rather than just tossing them into the trash? Some perceive this as circularity’s Achilles’ heel. However, if brands are truly eco-minded, there are a number of innovative ways to collect products once consumers are done with them. Organizations and companies like TerraCycle, Save It, KENT Compost Club, and Recircled are already working—in some cases with big brands—to innovate large-scale collection for recycling and composting for such circular economies. Perks like discounts on new items can help incentivize and standardize such behavior.