Sustainability is the interlinking and equal consideration of the three major concerns of environmental, economic and social. There are many environmental and ethical implications of the global clothing industry. The major ones are labour, waste and pesticides’
With increasing levels of pollution, sparsity of resources and climate change the world has many environmental problems (Rockstrom et al., 2009). After the oil industry the fashion industry comes second in being the most damaging to the environment (D, Moorhouse., 2017) Since the industrial revolution, production processes have mainly used a linear model (fig 1.), whereas materials are made from yarn, in which country the fiber is grown (D, Moorhouse., 2017). The grey scale material is then dyed, printed and finished according to the customer specifications. Although new standards are being set for the growing, processing, printing, and dyeing of cotton fabrics, (Frings, 2008) the demand for new products is still resulting in intensive crop growing which is causing many environmental issues, with water shortages as just one example, years of diverting water for cotton production have resulted in the Aral Sea shrinking by over 80% of its volumes causing an environmental disaster (Potter, 2010). Fast forward to 2018 the sea has now dried up by 90% (BBC, 2018) Consumers then use, discard, and eventually replace products with newer ones (Pitt and Heinemeyer, 2015).
‘Sustainable consumption as an aspect of consumer behaviour, involves pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase components
(Jacoby et all., 2007)
Essentially the final component of consumer behaviour is about whether clothing is re-used, recycled or simply discarded or destroyed.’
An EU initiative called the European Clothing Action Plan was launched in May 2016 to improve the sustainability of textiles by 2019 across their lifecycle from design to end use. If every brand in the clothing supply chain implemented sustainable practices up to 95% of textiles land filled could be recycled (D, Moorhouse., 2017). The advantage of re-using and recycling has both environmental and economic benefits. Textile recovery reduces the need for landfill space (Pitt and Heinemeyer, 2015). Textiles present many issues in landfill, to name a few, synthetic products do not decompose, whilst woolen garments decompose but produce methane, which contributes to global warming (Birtwistle, 2007) Fast fashion retailers such as H;M, Topshop and Zara, sell garments that are expected to be used less than ten times at very competitive price points. Therefore the increase of fashion purchasing has led to new phenomena of disposing of garments which may only have been worn a few times (Birtwistle, 2007) which results in damage to the environment.
The European Clothing Action Plan was developed so companies can think about how products are made, consumed and recycled. The circular economy would help reduce waste, pollution and address the matter of decreasing natural sources (M. Franko., 2017). The opposite of a linear ‘open-loop’ model where products end up in land fill, the circular economy uses a ‘closed-loop’ system where any waste can be used again in new production cycles (Genovese et all., 2017)