Textiles are a fundamental part of everyday life – from towels to clothing and car seats to bedding. Worldwide, more than 60 million people work in the textile and apparel industry, most of them in developing and emerging countries. The economic sector consists of strong international interdependencies, and the supply chains are complex. What’s more, it is one of the biggest CO2 emitters. Four billion tons of CO2 annually – that’s how high the emissions of the global textile industry are.
The current system for the production, distribution and use of clothing is mostly linear. Vast amounts of non-renewable resources are used to make them, and the garments themselves are generally only used for a limited period. In a linear economic system, there are no real opportunities to effectively implement sustainable principles. Clothing companies are cutting costs and making products more affordable for consumers. This speeds up production, resulting in multiple lines and collections each season. Fast fashion is flooding the market. As a result, millions of brand-new garments are simply thrown away every year.
Fortunately, the textile industry has now woken up and is keen to encourage circular economy and reduce environmental impact. Certainly not an entirely voluntary decision, as pressure is being increased from the side of the states by means of regulatory requirements and laws. Last year, the European Commission presented its strategy for sustainable and recyclable textiles, among other things. The strategy’s goals are:
- Make textiles more durable, repairable, reusable and recyclable by 2030
- To act against fast fashion
- Reduce textile waste
- Prevent the destruction of unsold textiles
- Strengthen the textile sector for crises in energy and raw material supply.
Basically, the circular economy is about using materials and substances in such a way that they are used over as long a period as possible and recovered for future production processes, i.e.: do not end up as waste. Resources kept in the cycle contribute longer and more frequently to value creation within the economic system and thus avoid further burdening the environment. This requires new business models and collaboration across the entire value chain.
Startups play a central role in this rethinking and renewal process: many are focusing on developing circular business models. For established companies, it is an immense task to make their existing business operations more sustainable. Start-ups, on the other hand, can build their operations around circular principles from the outset. On the one hand, they can develop sustainable products. On the other hand, many young companies offer support to existing businesses in becoming circular. Read more in my blog post Start-ups that can disrupt the industry.
Many companies have begun in earnest to implement or offer support for strategies to achieve circular economy results. I have already addressed this in this blog post: Reduce – reuse – recycle: the textile industry’s path to a sustainable future.
However, circular economy does not only play a role in the textile industry. For example, the city of Zurich has developed a circular economy strategy. « Circular Zurich » aims to use sustainable products and materials in the future and to implement the principles of the circular economy through cooperation with business, science, and the population. The city focuses on design, production, distribution, consumption, use as well as collection, recycling, and raw material processing.
It can be seen from many other companies, initiatives, and projects that a change in thinking is taking place. What our future and that of future generations will look like depends on how well we succeed in changing our mindset globally. The environment, climate protection and social issues must be at the top of the agenda of every individual, but also of companies.