Clothes is one basic human need. The quantity of this need is kind of vague. Some need as minimal as it could. Some say “I have nothing to wear” every day. Either way, the apparel brands keep on making new clothes in new style and customers could not get enough of it. But how to tackle the waste of unwanted and no-longer-needed clothes? The answer is sustainable apparel industry.
Apparel companies has faced certain fixes. For example, the long supply chain. Resulting little information and updates about the operation in far-flung factories. Plus, developing countries where their manufacture located also do not have a comprehensive laws, enforcement or infrastructure to control and treat pollution.
Not only supply chain, raw material resources is also a situation needed to be working on. Apparel industry rely so much on natural resources to attain garment materials. As a result of limited natural resources, brands need to be creative.
Nowadays, some brands have started to pay attention on the manufacturing. Such as material resources, water consumption, pollution, energy use, and chemical inputs in the process. They also apply sustainability guidelines, tighten responsibility, and enforce consequences.
Brands Answering the Sustainable Apparel Problem
Due to how much apparel industry use natural resources in its operation, many brands have been trying to work their way to a greener production process.
Recycling old clothes
For years people tend to donate or sale their secondhand in order to give the old clothes a new life. H&M has given donators something as token of appreciation. The global retail stores hand over voucher of discount in exchange to donation. It has collected more than 30 thousand metric tons of garments since 2013. Seems like customers and brands accept this idea to address the sustainable apparel industry’s problem
The goal is to prevent unwanted apparel going to landfills or incinerators. As a result, the garments get a new life in secondhand stores, as cleaning rags, or as fiber material in insulation products. However, the bigger goal is to use end-of-life clothes as raw material for making a new apparel.
“We want to find a solution for reusing and recycling all textile fiber for new use,” say Ulrica Bogh-Lind, H&M spokesperson. “This can change the way fashion is made and massively reduce the need for extracting virgin resources from our planet.”
Various items and materials could be recycled in order to produce new garment. The recycled materials will help saving the planet. These recycled materials are currently apparel brands’ favorite things to use:
- Recycled polyester
- Besides cotton, polyester is also used widely in making clothes. Polyester is an artificial fiber made of oil. Whole the sustainable option is made of oil-based waste. Such as PET bottles.
- Recycled polyamide
Polyamide is a versatile and popular oil-based fiber. the more eco-friendly version of this material comes from things such as old fishing nets and carpet.
- Recycled wool
Wool is material for outdoor and winter/fall apparel. Brands get their recycled wool from cut-offs during production and old clothes customer donate.
- Recycled glass
- One does not have to be afraid with the quality of recycled glass. As glass is an easy recycle material and will not loss its quality. Apparel industry use it to make embellishments for clothes, accessories. Moreover, it can be also used for home decor.
- Recycled plastic
Recycled plastic is a great material for many things. First, it can be made into shopping bags. Furthermore, it could also turn into fashion accessories.
- FSC recycled wood
FSC counts that its recycled wood need to have at least 70 per cent post-consumer reclaimed materials. These materials such as wood and wood fibers from a product after that product has been used for its intended purpose.
- FSC recycled paper
These papers come from FSC certified forests. These forests are under surveillance and protection of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
- Recycled cashmere
Cut-offs of cashmere during production is materials for recycle. This, together with post-consumer cashmere waste create new cashmere product.
- Recycled down and feather
Feathers from old blankets, pillows and cushions make recycled down, this allow brands to save raw materials, use fewer chemicals and water.
- Recycled silver
Brands get recycled silver from industrial scrap and old silver products. Things such as candle holders, coins, flatware and scrap jewelry. It also means the negative impacts on mining could be avoided.
Innovation in new material and production process.
Stella McCartney, designer of label Stella McCartney announced at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit that the brand just launched sneakers named The Loop. It does not use glue to attach the part of the shoes together. “Glue is made of either animal or fish bones (or God knows what other body part),” she said.
The team at Stella McCartney spent about three years developing The Loop. It is all biodegradable. Not using any glue means this line is cruelty-free line.
A brand named Naja use recycled plastic to come with the garment. They use digital or sublimation printing technologies on the garment to reduce water consumption.
Read also: These Simple Things You Do Harm the Earth
Using sustainable fiber and garment
This is the option that many brands are choosing lately. As many of fabric materials are made of plant. Making the environment impact on natural resources can be very harmful.
H&M launched its seventh edition of Conscious Exclusive Collection this year. The collection use different sustainable material. Natural material that is sustainable the brand use such as:
- Sustainable cotton
H&M is a member of Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). One of the goals of BCI is to educate farmers in producing cotton with less water and chemical. Meaning producing a eco-friendly cotton. Besides that, H&M and other brands also use organic cotton and recycled cotton.
- Organic linen
linen is made of flax plants. Choosing organic linens means choosing plants grown without chemical pesticides or fertilisers.
lyocell is a type of fabric. Not fiber. it made of fibers that could come from various trees. One example is eucalyptus. Many of the trees for lyocell requires little water up to only few pesticides.
- Organic silk
silkworm lives in mulberry trees. What makes organic silk different is the situation of environment the mulberry trees live in. it lives in an environmental friendly situation. It resulting organic silk with the same high quality compared to conventional silk.
- FSC natural rubber
Using FSC natural rubber means sourcing natural rubber from well-managed rubber tree forest. The rubber is also a renewable and recyclable material. It requires little energy or chemical to be made.
- Organic jute
Jute is a fiber extracted from the bark of white jute plant. Jute plant itself only requires little water. Organic jute plant uses no chemical pesticides or fertilizer. It also contains no Genetically modified organisms(GMO’s)
Beside H&M, Stella McCartney also use sustainable viscose into their products. Viscose or rayon is made of tree pulp. Apparel industry cuts down about 150 million trees each year to make viscose
Since apparel industry rely so much in natural resources, it is especially relevant they have their share of responsibility to save the planet. If the resources disturbed, the industry will also suffer.