LONDON (Reuters) – The fashion industry urgently needs to reform its wasteful, polluting ways, British designer Stella McCartney and record-breaking sailor Ellen MacArthur said.
With global clothing sales doubling since 2000, people now wear each item far fewer times, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation said, calling for items ranging from T-shirts to jeans to be designed differently and reused more.
The charity, established in 2010, has pioneered the shift towards a “circular economy” in which raw materials and products are repeatedly reused to reduce waste and pollution.
“In a new textiles economy, clothes would be designed to last longer, be worn more and be easily rented or resold and recycled, and would not release toxins or pollution,” it said.
The fashion industry is worth about $2.4 trillion a year, according to the global consultancy McKinsey.
The equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is wasted every second, and less than 1 percent of clothing is recycled into new clothes, MacArthur’s foundation said in a report.
If nothing changes, the fashion industry will consume a quarter of the world’s annual carbon budget by 2050, it said, referring to the emissions the world can make while keeping the global temperature rise at no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Fashion must abandon its “take-make-dispose” model, where unwanted clothes are sent to landfill sites or incinerated, and start using non-polluting materials that are designed to last and could save the industry $500 billion, it said.
“The report presents a roadmap for us to create better businesses and a better environment,” Ms McCartney, a long-time vegetarian who does not use leather or fur, and daughter of the Beatle musician Paul McCartney, said in a statement.
“It provides solutions to an industry that is incredibly wasteful and harmful to the environment.”
Textile production emits 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases annually, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined, the report said.
Clothes also release half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres into the ocean every year, equivalent to more than 50 billion plastic bottles, it said.
Several major brands said they support the initiative, including Swedish fashion retailer H&M and sports giant Nike.
“It is aligned with our efforts in making sure that economic and social development can happen in a way that the planet can afford,” H&M’s chief executive Karl-Johan Persson said in a statement.