Clothing related waste and possible solutions

A report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation ( describes the global clothing sales increasing from 50 billion units in 2000 to 100 billion units in 2015 while the number of times clothese were worn on average before being discarded decreasing by 36% during the same period. The report claims a less than 1% recycle rate of clothing and suggests a greenhouse gas impact that is greater than international flights and maritime shipping. Is fast fashion, where there is an interest in following short term trends, the reason for such an impact ? Should consumers be charged for the environmental impact of their clothing or should this be the responsibility of the producers to take back used clothing ? Should manufacturers be provided explicit incentives to reuse clothing fibres from used clothing or should this be based on self interest to reduce costs ? Is there a need for governments to enable coordination to create a circular economy for clothing ?

About aviyer2010

This entry was posted in Air, Capacity, Collaboration, consumer, Operations Management, Supply Chain Issues, Sustainability and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Clothing related waste and possible solutions

  1. Sara Moscato Howe says:

    This is a fascinating report on something that impacts each of us. It seems the fashion industry has always had quick changes in trends, so I find it less likely it is due to increasing changes in fashion trends. I would guess it is more likely due to a change in what we value, how quickly we discard old to get new and a lack of understanding of impact. Thus, I think it might be useful for this type of report to be turned into quick soundbites that can be promoted online to educate the general public. I also think an enterprising company could offer a discount for returned clothes to recycle rather than adding a surcharge. Many companies are looking to reduce their footprint these days and so are individuals. It could be a win for a company to add that incentive rather than a charge. A minimal surcharge may not be enough to change behaviors, but consumers like discounts and it makes them feel good to do something positive. A final option is similar with government – perhaps incentives to those companies that recycle more than those that don’t? Same principle as before – more likely to try for an incentive than really make an effort with a charge. If that does not work, then the surcharges are the next reasonable option. Knowing this information now, I will definitely make a better effort to recycle and cut down on the clothes I don’t wear!

  2. srinivas tadepalli says:

    This is a very interesting topic. As I was reading the document in detail, per the environmental protection agency from 1960 to 2010 (50 yrs), the average American textile waste increased from 20 pounds/year to 85 pounds/year (~4X). With the advent of affordable fast fashion and trendy clothing the use of non-degradable materials has increased multiple folds in the past few decades and the use of biodegradable materials such as cotton etc has gone down (for various reasons, one being expensive compared to polymeric fabric). Consumers are not willing to spend money on good and long lasting textiles anymore and poor quality garments (predominantly from the fast fashion market) don’t last long either. As a result, consumers buy more. On the other hand, the fashion industry has become notorious for exploitation of human capital, outsourcing production to the world’s lowest-wage economies etc. I also think most of the waste in the fashion industry is hidden along a chaotic supply chain which is not environmental friendly. I don’t think there is a perfect solution for this problem but I do believe in intelligent choices from both the consumer and producers. Clothing manufacturers should be incentivized for using biodegradable materials and recycling clothing and some efforts are already under way from some brands such as H&M etc. Unfortunately, whatever cannot be recycled ends up in a landfill polluting the environment.

    p.s.: @ Sara.. to your comment ” enterprising company could offer a discount for returned clothes to recycle rather than adding a surcharge”, some companies in the fast fashion world such as H&M etc are doing this right now.

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