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Reinventing the world’s US$ 1.4 trillion fashion industry

The Cradle-to-Cradle Institute’s Fashion Positive+ programme is celebrating its first anniversary. Backed by major brands like Stella McCartney and H&M, the initiative strives to ‘reinvent the basic building blocks of fashion’.

The international apparel industry was worth almost US$ 1.4 trillion last year, witnessing some 4.8% growth per year since 2011. Growth will be even higher in the next couple of years, according to analytics firm MarketLine, which estimates an annual rise in total market value of nearly 6%. This means that, by 2020, the global market will be worth over US$ 1.65 trillion, up 60% since 2011.

Whether reducing waste, including recycled content, recycling offcuts or avoiding chemicals, the Fashion Positive+ collective is confident steps can be taken towards a more sustainable fashion industry. ‘Together, we can make our demands impossible to ignore,’ it urges.

3 months = 2 million tons

The programme has awarded US$ 50 000 to Worn Again, an innovator developing chemical recycling technology to separate blends and create recycled polyester fiber.‘Demand for these two fibres is set to increase to 63% by 2030 due to a rising global population,’ the business comments.

It goes on to state that, every year, the world produces over 55 million tonnes of new polyester and cotton to make our clothing and textiles. At the same time, over 50 million tonnes of textiles go to landfill or incineration.

If the average lifespan of clothing was extended by just three months, it could reduce clothing’s carbon and water footprints by 5 to 10%, as well as reduce waste generation, it is pointed out. Three months of lifetime increase will ultimately save two million tons of textile waste every year in the US.

Hopeful trajectory

The good news is that an increasing number of Cradle-to-Cradle certified members have recieved a ‘gold’ label for their produts and processes. In 2017, 12 new companies attained gold status. This is the second highest rating, with platinum being the best.

‘As fashion’s trajectory towards a more circular economy rises, brands and innovators need greater access to the material innovators working on the frontlines of technology, sustainability and material health,’ observes Lewis Perkins, president of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. Sharing best practices will help scale-up the good work being undertaken in the global textiles and retail community.

To further encourage positive change, the programme recently published the “Fashion Positive Emerging Material Innovators Report”, detailing the innovative efforts of 12 new pioneers in the textiles value chain.

The Fashion Positive+ programme also hosts webinars and workshops to educate industry stakeholders about anything from chemically recycled fibres, using all-natural dyes, and how to minimise the amount of energy and water used by clothing producers.

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