Why Sustainability Matters
- The textile industry has evolved into a $1 trillion industry globally, comprising clothing, as well as furniture and mattress material, linens, draperies, cleaning materials, leisure equipment, and many other items.
- More than 15 million tons of used textile waste is generated each year in the United States.
- Fast fashion is second only to oil as the world’s largest polluter. It produces 10% of all humanity's carbon emissions, is the second-largest consumer of the world's water supply and pollutes the oceans with microplastics.
That's more emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
It takes about 700 gallons of water to produce one cotton shirt. That's enough water for one person to drink at least eight cups per day for three-and-a-half years.
- While people bought 60% more garments in 2014 than in 2000, they only kept the clothes for half as long. Meanwhile, fashion companies went from offering two collections per year in 2000 to five in 2011. Companies like ZARA and H&M offer 12-24 collections per year.
- Even though there are more than 500 garment-recycling companies in the U.S. 85 percent of used textiles still go to national landfills.
That's the equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes being burned or dumped in a landfill every second.
- Once in landfills, natural fibers can take hundreds of years to decompose while releasing methane and CO2 gas into the atmosphere. Additionally, synthetic textiles are designed not to decompose. In the landfill, they may release toxic substances into groundwater and surrounding soil.
Overall, the fashion industry is responsible for 20% of all industrial water pollution worldwide.
Understanding the Recycling Process of Natural Fibers
- The incoming unwearable material is sorted by type of material and color. Color sorting results in a fabric that does not need to be re-dyed. The color sorting means no re-dying is required, saving energy and avoiding pollutants.
- Textiles are then pulled into fibers or shredded, sometimes introducing other fibers into the yarn. Materials are shredded or pulled into fibers. Depending on the end use of the yarn, other fibers may be incorporated.
- The yarn is then cleaned and mixed through a carding process.
- Then the yarn is re-spun and ready for subsequent use in weaving or knitting.
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