Before diving into the methods to reduce textile waste, let us understand what textile waste is.
What is Textile Waste?
Textile waste refers to the material that becomes unusable for its original purpose and is disposed of by its owner. Textile waste can be pre-consumer or post-consumer. Pre-consumer textile waste is produced in the fashion supply chain before the textile reaches the consumer. Post-consumer waste is generated after the product has been used by the consumer and thrown away.
Textile waste includes garments, accessories, curtains, bed sheets, carpets, pillow covers, upholstery, towels, and more. It is produced during every stage of the textile supply chain, i.e. during fiber production, textile production, clothing production, and consumer use and disposal.
Globally, millions of tonnes of textiles are thrown away
every year. EPA estimated that in 2018, the United
States alone generated 17 million tons of textiles, making for around 5.8 percent of total MSW (municipal solid waste) generated that year. Furthermore, 11.3 million tons of MSW textiles were landfilled in 2018.
Why Textile Waste is a Problem?
Textile production and waste both cause several environmental problems. Textile production requires large quantities of natural resources, such as water and land. It may also involve the use of chemicals and produce large amounts of greenhouse gases.
Textile waste is created when consumers discard their clothing. It results in the wastage of resources, money, lost business, and overloading of landfills. Some synthetic textiles take hundreds of years to decompose in landfills. The decomposition process produces greenhouse gases and discharges harmful chemicals and dyes into the soil and groundwater.
While textile waste is a global problem, there are several ways to reduce it. Let’s take a look at them.
Textile Waste Reduction Methods
The below methods will enable brands to create a circular fashion economy where textiles and clothing are circulated for as long as their maximum value is retained and are safely returned to the environment when they become completely unusable.
1. Understand Your Supply Chain
The first way is to understand your supply chain and identify where is textile waste produced in it. Determine the stages in your supply chain where textile waste is produced. Identify how you can reuse that textile waste.
Waste can be generated due to misprinting and embroidery defects. It can also be produced on the cutting floor or during sewing. It can be eliminated to a great extent at all stages (cutting, manufacturing, packaging, sewing, finishing, etc.) by making these processes more efficient. Technical skills such as pattern making and fabric cutting can help in minimizing fabric wastage. Brands can also use smart fabric cutting machines to minimize fabric waste.
2. Analyze Trends to Minimize Overproduction
Fashion brands can avoid overproduction by using trend predictions. Knowledge of upcoming trends will prevent overproduction, resulting in less landfilling and incinerating and reducing the revenue loss for the company. Fashion brands can rather focus on making quality clothing that lasts long.
3. Source Textile Waste
This method may not be as easy as sourcing new textiles from suppliers and require more research. While this method can sound quite arduous, it is one of the great ways to reduce textile waste in the fashion industry. You can look for high-quality textile waste at clothing banks or explore your existing storage of unused samples or unsold garments to reuse and repurpose.
Sometimes factories and textile mills have a supply of surplus high-end textiles in varying shapes, sizes, and quantities that are often available at low prices. That surplus material can be used to create new garments by pushing the boundaries of innovation.
New textile production requires a lot of resources, time, and effort. This process may also release greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals into the environment.
Textile and clothing recycling is the process by which textile and clothing are recovered for reuse. Textile recycling involves collecting, sorting, and processing textile waste to convert it into usable textile materials.
Clothing made from different materials is recycled differently. For instance, natural materials like wool and cotton are pulled apart and cleaned, their fibers are spun into yarn to make new fabrics.
To recycle polyester clothing, the textiles are first shredded into chips and then melted down to create new fabrics. The recycling process for blended garments – for example, a mix of polyester and cotton – can be challenging.
If your fashion business advocates sustainability, you can think of connecting with those companies and manufacturers who recycle the leftover garments or the old clothes donated by people to make new ones. By doing this, you can reduce textile waste to some extent.
5. Custom Production (Made-to-order clothing as per customer's specifications)
Many consumers, today, look for high-quality clothes that offer superior fit, higher comfort, and last long. Made-to-order clothing can help you deliver all these benefits to your customers.
Custom-made clothing is not mass-produced. The cutting and sewing of fabrics are done by highly skilled craftsmen only on receiving a new order. Custom-made garments may not follow the latest fashion trends as they are timeless garments that will remain relevant in your customer's wardrobes for many years.
Besides minimizing textile waste, custom production allows fashion brands to showcase their creativity in a way that mass-produced clothes can't.
6. Take Responsibility
Another way to reduce textile waste is by supporting circularity and taking responsibility for your clothes throughout their life cycles. The circular fashion industry is defined as a regenerative system in which garments are circulated for as long as their maximum value is retained, and then returned safely to the biosphere when they are no longer of use.
Many sustainable fashion brands are using take-back programs where consumers can donate their old clothes. As a fashion brand, you can take in-store recycling initiatives that allow consumers to drop off their pre-loved or unwanted clothing items. The drop-off boxes are usually sorted into three categories – Rewear (clothes that can be sold as second-hand clothing), Reuse (clothes are not wearable but can be used to make other items, such as cleaning cloths), and Recycle (clothes that are reprocessed into textile fibers to make new garments).
Fashion brands can play a crucial role in reducing textile waste by incorporating circularity into supply chains, manufacturing, and after a consumer has discarded the clothing item after wearing them a couple of times.
We hope the practices mentioned in this article will help you reduce textile waste in the fashion industry.
If you are a fashion business or independent designer
thinking of reducing landfill waste and making the
fashion industry less harmful, get in touch with us!
We will help you source fabric, yarn, or apparel from suppliers and manufacturers who follow zero-waste practices.