Our society uses textiles not only in the clothes we wear but across a wide range of other products such as carpets, bedding, furniture and even in the cars we drive. In Australia, less than 1% of this gets recycled and to compound the issue, the level of clothing production has more than doubled in the last 15 years whilst the average number of wears per garment has decreased by 36%, with a significant proportion heading straight to landfill at the end of life.
Most of the adverse environmental impact in the textile supply chain comes from the production of the raw materials. This includes the consumption of large quantities of water, pesticides and fertilisers to depletion of non-renewable resources. In parallel the industry is also responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions and hazardous chemicals that threaten both workers and the environment along with being a major source of microplastic contamination of our oceans.
Circular economy strategies have a huge potential to address these problems, through the use of renewable energy, phasing out of dangerous chemicals, improving the utilisation of clothing and offering solutions for reuse and recycling.