Study says fast-fashion practices must end


Fibres made from hemp, and by-products of fruit, milk and vegetables could help save the planet from global waste production in the fashion industry, experts say.

Consumers also must change their consumption habits and be ready to pay higher prices for their clothes, a team of international researchers into the environmental impacts of fast fashion say.

Academics from UNSW, Finland, Sweden, the US and UK have identified the environmental impacts of the fashion supply chain, “from production to consumption, focusing on water use, chemical pollution, CO2 emissions and textile waste”.

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“For example, the industry produces over 92 million tonnes of waste and consumes 1.5 trillion tonnes of water per year, with developing countries often bearing the burden for developed countries,” they said.

The global review, published in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, says fundamental changes to the fashion business model, “including an urgent transition away from ‘fast fashion'”, are needed to improve the long-term sustainability of the industry.

“Very recently new fibres and materials have emerged from easy-to-grow crops such as hemp, and waste by-products from crops (bio-based fibres) such as pineapple (Pinatex), citrus fruits (Orange Fiber), milk (Qmilk), mushrooms (Mylo) and kelp extracted from seaweed (Algikit),” they said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Current fashion-consumption practices result in large amounts of textile waste, most of which is incinerated, landfilled or exported to developing countries.”

UNSW Associate Professor Alison Gwilt and her colleagues say “slow fashion” is the way forward, while there was debate about whether producers should be responsible for the waste they produce, by offering repair services rather than mass production of items to be discarded.

The authors say collaboration between designers and manufacturers, stakeholders and consumers is required, with the textile industry investing in cleaner technologies, the fashion industry developing new sustainable business models, and policymakers modifying legislation.

“Consumers also have a crucial role and must change their consumption habits and be ready to pay higher prices that account for the environmental impact of fashion,” they said.

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