Updated: Oct 6, 2018
"Burberry’s bonfire of the vanities is brazen and ecologically reckless" is a terrific headline and the story has certainly sparked some discussion.
The issue of post consumer textile waste has finally caught the attention of mainstream media and rightly so. But there is still too much focus on commenting from the sidelines and not enough spotlight on the doers. It's time to elbow aside the observers and make room for a conversation about the business models, the technology and the companies actively working on solutions.
According to The Boston Consulting Group published in last years 'Pulse of the Fashion industry report', fashion is on track to deliver AUD $284 billion in annual value for the world economy by 2030.
$284 billion. Amazing right? But to realise this milestone and protect any future profitability the industry must begin to address the social and environmental impact it causes. There have been more than enough markers for change in recent times.
A few weeks back I presented to a meeting of partners at Deloitte in Sydney on the topic of Conscious Consumers - a buzzword perhaps but also a reflection of a distinct shift in consumer behaviour towards more sustainable consumption. When we started Kusaga Athletic (creator of the Greenest T-shirt on the Planet) four years ago, we believed many people wanted to make the shift but couldn’t easily find garments produced with sustainability at the core. Other than Patagonia, very few brands were in this space. Today it’s a different story with consumers actively looking for and finding more sustainable products but we have so much more to do to address the issue of waste.
When it comes to post consumer textile waste, current initiatives are inadequate. Like most of us, I donate my unwanted personal clothing to charities, and charities do an amazing job with the limited resources they have to sort and distribute the massive volume received via street bins and collection days. Here and globally the volumes are overwhelming and most discarded clothing ends up being shipped to emerging countries, eventually ending up in landfill - which simply shifts the problem to elsewhere on the same planet. Plus the double whammy of negatively impacting the local textile manufacturing economy.
Take back schemes without pathways into reuse or recycle may catch the attention of journalists and bloggers but in terms of addressing the waste problem they are little more than marketing exercises.
Economists and sales people use terms like value chain but we keep hearing the reports of brands like Burberry destroying perfectly good products that still have plenty of value.
It’s time to move past simply collecting textile waste and establish programs that will enable the development of the textile industry and post consumer textile resource streams. I believe the future is a true closed loop sourcing methodology - from raw materials through to consumer use and kept in play within textile recycling. One where new players are encouraged to get involved along the entire supply chain that drives future use beyond current building products and shop rags.
A recent study by New Zealand’s Sustainable Business Network in partnership with Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED) predicted that by adopting a circular economy, Auckland's economy would get a $9 billion boost.
NZ is serious about the opportunity and actively engaging with industry and business owners to find ways to accelerate the transition. Next month, thanks to a collaboration between the SBN's Circular Economy Accelerator and WasteMINZ, Auckland will host the country’s first Circular Economy Summit in Aotearoa, with keynote by Michael Braungart, architect of the concept of Cradle to Cradle.
I will also be attending the Summit and am excited to be presenting our new venture - BlockTexx - and our vision of what the textile model of circular economy could be. I believe technology is the tool that will unlock the circular economy.
I'll leave the last words to fashion industry icon and head of Prada, Miuccia Prada.
“What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language."
What do your clothes say about you?