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Circular economy can make textile units efficient

Jun 30, 2021
Circular economy can make textile units efficient


It is believed that the textile industry is a major source of waste and pollution. Overproduction and overconsumption of low-cost clothes are produced under poor conditions and end up in landfills. This not only causes environmental pollution but also represents missed economic opportunities. Opting for a circular economy is the best way to make the textile sector more efficient and less polluting.

If the textiles are made circular, then it can have a great impact on the environment. According to a report published by Henrique Pacini, Economist, UNCTAD, 33% of the carbon dioxide emissions embedded in textile products can be reduced by opting for the policy of reuse, repurpose, and recycle. It can also reduce land, soil, and air pollution which is linked to the production of textiles.

Another point that was highlighted was that whenever circularity is been discussed, the entire focus is on the environmental gains and less on the social consequences of transition. The hardship faced by workers at the bottom of the textiles supply chain is represented by the tragedy of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh. There is a need for more social equity in the industry. Another concern for developing countries is that the trade-in second-hand clothes restrict the growth of the local textile industries.

One more social dimension for a circular industry is the jobs. Many sectors experience job losses because cotton and polyester, which is the main source of textiles and apparel, come from agricultural sources. As agriculture meets automation, textile industries face long-term decreases in employment levels. End-of-life garment sorting and an unhealthy work environment are other social concerns. 

At present many companies focus on sustainability. For these companies and businesses, stepping into circular textiles involve three main aspects naming business model, technology, and understanding how to get buy-in from customers. With the help of technology, recycling and upcycling of rural and synthetic materials that are used in textiles like wool, rayon, cotton, and polyester can be done. Companies like Renewcell and TreetoTextile are working to reduce the environmental impacts of conventional rayon by using new generations of semi-synthetic fibers. Many companies work on lease and rental approaches, while multinational companies like Levis and H&M operate on a linear model and are trailing upcycling and second-hand businesses.

In developing countries like Brazil, Bangladesh, India, China, Pakistan, and Turkey, the global textiles market is estimated at around $1.4 trillion. It employs around 300 million people. The need of the hour is to understand what exactly the consumers want and to deliver a suitable circular solution.

Source – UNCTAD

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