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end of life
Not to be dramatic, but the total quantity of fashion waste is estimated to reach 148 million tons in 2030.

Sadly the majority of clothing waste is incinerated or ends up in landfills in the Global South. The latter is not a good solution: natural fibres take hundreds of years to decompose and release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and synthetic materials are not designed to decompose at all and may release toxic substances. We clearly need better solutions for the end of the life of garments. Some of these solutions might be available with new technologies and AI. If you are interested in how AI can be used to reduce waste and improve manufacturing, read more about it here
Need help finding a supplier or getting connected directly at the farm level? Contact Simply Suzette here.
Durability & Circularity

What if there was no need to end the life of a garment at all? The concept of durability looks at eliminating waste by making items that last much longer, which can be achieved by using resistant materials, not applying processes that destroy the fibres, and reducing the amount of times a garment has to be washed.


Durability is often measured as the number of times a garment can resist a certain type of test, that measure values such as abrasion, tensile and th strength, burst strength, stretch and recovery, perspiration tests, croaking, colour resistance to lights and washes, and staining. Garments that don’t look the same after a few washes are definitely not durable! 


What if I get bored of a style, or my clothing item doesn’t fit me anymore? Depop, ThredUp, Vinted, Ebay, second hand stores, and many more models are great solutions to allow people to exchange clothes. These systems need strong garments that can be shipped around the world, exchanged, worn, washed, and resold, which ties back to the concept of durability.

Design for Circularity


Circularity is a concept which completely eliminates the concept of waste, both in terms of materials and value. Basically the end of life of a garment becomes the beginning of something else.


We have a huge respect for designers who are doing all they can to design the best garments they possibly can because as we've heard before, 80% of the impact of a garment comes from the design stage! But, not all designers have the knowledge to produce circular apparel and textiles.


How are circular apparel items actually different?


+ All should have metal trims should be removed entirely or reduced to a minimum - as they are hard for recyclers to remove and are usually cut off and subsequently landfilled or incinerated (Lil tip: look to historic pocket designs and their use of clever bartacks)


+ All must have recyclable materials which can be kept in use once a product and its components can no longer be reused or repaired. 


+ Alternatively, materials can be compostable, but should never only have incineration or landfilling as their only option


+ All must be identifiable and traceable


+ No hazardous chemicals should be used in the manufacture of the jeans as they can cause allergic reactions and respiratory diseases etc. in the garment workers and consumers


+ Take back schemes must be in place for consumers to return their items, that are then either resold or upcycled by the brand. The brand must also have the proper reverse logistics in place to send pieces that cannot be resold or upcycled to garment recyclers.


A good certification to look for is:


+ C2C (Cradle2Cradle)


When designing for longevity, durability, and reparability, the aim is to extend the use of a garment. On the other hand, when designing for disassembly, recyclability, or compostability, the aim is to ensure that products and materials return to the system and can be regenerated through a biological or technical cycle. But, in order to cycle products successfully, we need to know EVERYthing that went into making it. Traceable supply chains and materials make this much easier to do so.


Recycling Into New Yarn And Fabric


The best solution is to keep clothing being used as clothing. Ideally forever. Brands like Atelier and Repair or Bengabelknits have taken fashionable repairs to the next level, however sometimes there is no hope for your clothes to be used any further, as they could be too torn or stained. That is when recycling comes into place. It conserves natural resources and reduces the need for landfill space. So, what are the options?


+ Mechanical recycling of cotton means that fibres are extracted and spun again, without using any water. The issue is that the length of the fibres becomes much shorter, therefore of lower quality and strength, so they have to be combined either with virgin cotton or with polyester. For wool, mechanical recycling is the most suitable solution, and an extremely high quality can be maintained, using little energy and water. Rifo is an example of an Italian startup specialising into this. 


+ Chemical recycling of cotton is the newest area of research, examples of companies doing this are Renewcell and Infinited Fibre. Pulp is extracted using chemical processes, and this material is used to make new textiles such as Viscose. The limitation here is that the chemical process only works on fabrics that have minimum 98% cotton content.


+Cellulose based fabrics can be turned into new cellulose if they aren’t mixed with plastic-based yarns, in the same way that cellulose is extracted initially from renewable natural resources or waste 


+Plastic based fibres are nearly impossible to recycle into new yarns, because the quality of the plastic is reduced too much through the processing. There are a few startups looking into this, but the scale is extremely small, and it’s still too cheap to produce virgin plastic. Circ recycles discarded clothing to produce the basis of petroleum- and plant-based fabrics. Circ’s virgin-equivalent, market-grade dissolving pulp and petroleum monomers can be sold at the same cost as virgin materials to manufacturers who make fibres. 


Recycling Into Non-Fabric


Surely there must be a solution to the problem of fabric waste. Is there no other industry that would be happy to collaborate? The construction industry is always looking for large volumes of cheap materials right? Downcycling is a concept which describes how a material loses its value through a recycling process, and is repurposed as a lower quality item. This is often the case for textile waste reused in construction, mostly as an insulating material to fill walls. Textile waste is also used to fill mattresses and make rugs, however they are considered low quality items.


Leathers have the benefit that they are extremely durable, however they can also get damaged and need to be discarded. Vegetable tanned leathers can be composted under specific environments, and other types can be shredded similarly as for textiles. 


(Slightly off topic) Have you ever heard of Precious Plastics? It is a wonderful initiative which is present in lots of countries around the world, based on open source information on how to recycle plastic through shredding, heating, pressing or moulding. What if the same was done for fabric waste?


What if we used fabric waste instead of other materials that have a high impact? Check out two amazing projects that turn fabric waste into tiles and furniture:


+ Fab-Brick

+ Stelapop


+ Nazena 

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