Valuing Our Clothes and the UK Manufacturing Industry
Throughout 2020, the urgency surrounding Climate Change followed by the disruption of a global pandemic saw brands and designers address business models and sustainability issues with a direct sense of clarity. It is all very well talking about change but who is actually implementing action? And what is the state of clothing and waste in the UK today?
WRAP.uk compiles a 5-yearly report the ‘Sustainable Clothing Action Plan’ (SCAP), a collaborative framework, and voluntary agreement of organisations across the supply chain, with the aim of reducing their carbon, water, and waste impacts. While there is still a great deal of work to be done it is encouraging to see the figures improve from SCAP signatories. The latest report confirms:
+ SCAP signatories have made significant improvements, reducing carbon by 10.6%, water by 13.5%, and waste across the product life cycle by 0.8%, per tonne of clothing since 2012. This is the equivalent of one and a half hot air balloons of carbon; over 23 thousand baths full of water; and the equivalent of 30 pairs of women’s jeans for every tonne of clothing sold.
+ The amount of clothing in household residual waste in the UK has reduced by 50,000 tonnes since 2012.
+ The carbon footprint has been reduced by 700,000 tonnes CO2 through people washing their clothes at lower temperatures, and ironing and tumble drying less frequently, and further savings are possible in this area.
+ Big environmental savings can be made by focusing on ‘priority products’.
+ Switching to sustainable cotton continues to present one of the biggest opportunities for clothing retailers and brands; and further progress in this area could meet the SCAP target for water.
+ With rising global demand for clothing the sector urgently needs to secure new sources of materials and find new markets for used clothing. Fibre to fibre recycling is a key opportunity.
While figures are gradually improving there is still a great deal that needs to be done. Less than 3% of fashion and household textiles are recycled with 921,000 tonnes of textile products placed in household residual waste destined for landfill or incineration.
Leaving the EU twinned with Covid-19 pandemic has seen an increase demand for products to be manufactured closer to home. In terms of logistics, carbon footprint and a quick turnaround on short runs Made in the UK makes perfect sense. WRAP.uk suggest the need for research and infrastructure improvements to scale fibre to fibre recycling both mechanically and chemically to a commercially sustainable level. This is where UK manufactures can really up their game by providing a complete service that incorporates recycled fabrics creating a circular model.
The UK manufacturing sector now faces an immediate opportunity to regenerate in a fourth industrial revolution through production innovation, digitisation and AI. Consumer global demand for fashion and textiles is worth $961 billion with a growth forecast 4.3%. UK Consumer Demand is estimated as £74 billion including household textiles with £53 Billion spent on garments alone. This has increased by 47% in the last 10 years and is forecast to continue.
Currently in the UK the manufacturing ecosystem comprises largely SME’s (employing less than 250 people). It produces £9.1 billion worth of textiles, which are largely for B2B or export. As a global leader in design and the implementation of new technologies throughout the planning, design and manufacturing of the supply chain, the UK is ripe for manufacturing development that can incorporate the entire garment life cycle offering greater sustainability benefits all round.
Intro image / quote courtesy of FashionRevolution.org