It is not unknown that the textile industry is one of the most polluting. Fast fashion, constantly providing new styles at very low prices, requires huge volumes of production with equally giant environmental impacts. Indeed, the manufacture of clothing requires a massive consumption of water, energy, greenhouse gas emissions, and generates waste such as releases of microplastics and chemical materials. It also takes a lot of water, and soil, to grow cotton and other fibers. Added to this is the almost total disconnection between the places where they are grown and where the clothes are worn.
And if that were not enough, not only the production process of textiles poses problems. Fast fashion has also led to a sharp increase in the amount of discarded clothing. For example, over the past 30 years, the European Union population have bought 40% more clothes per person, and every year Europeans consume about 26 kilos of textiles and throw away about 11 kilos. Although it is possible to export used clothing outside the EU, the majority of it (87%) is incinerated or landfilled. Worldwide, less than 1% of clothing is recycled, only partly due to a lack of adequate technology available.
Added to the issue of textile waste from individual consumers is, unfortunately, yet another layer: dormant stocks. On its blog, Circulab gives an overview of these stocks of clothing, fabrics and other textile materials that are unused and stored in warehouses, factories, stores or other places. These inventories may be related to overproduction, canceled orders or unsold stock. They lead to a significant increase in textile waste, which is often incinerated or landfilled if not used. Regulations – for example one recently approved in France – can influence the way companies manage their inventory, making it illegal to destroy unsold goods and putting more emphasis on prevention, reuse and recycling.
Other possible solutions would involve promoting a cultural shift towards sobriety practices leading to a reduction in the volume of clothing purchased. This could be combined with textile production using only dormant stocks as raw material. Feat.coop is an interesting collective project in this sense. Based on the textile ecosystem of the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes region in France, its mission is to revalorize the dormant textile stocks as well as the historical know-how of the sector. It brings together industrialists from the region, weavers, knitters, component manufacturers with a common vision for local value chains, with a low environmental footprint and preserving local jobs and knowledge. Indeed, they cut their coats according to their cloth!