It’s tough to say if textile waste will be the next frontier in eco-fashion. It’s definitely a necessary step in closing the loop on textile manufacturing. Humans are the only species on the planet who create waste, and the amount of excess we create was magnified by the rise of the industrial revolution. What we need to do now as a society is get that waste under control and eliminate it whenever possible.
PRE- VS. POST-CONSUMER
There are two types of waste created when you buy a product. Pre-consumer excess is what gets wasted in the process of manufacturing an item for sale and consumption. Post-consumer excess is what’s left over after you consume the item you bought: the packaging, the item itself, or other leftover items.
The waste materials we create can generate an endless supply of resources without straining the environment.
According to Annie Leonard (The Story of Stuff), it takes 70 garbage cans worth of pre-consumer excess to make the items you throw out in your garbage can every week. It only stands to reason, then, that the waste materials we create can generate an endless supply of resources without straining the environment any further.
In terms of textiles, polyester is the number one manufactured fabric on the planet. It’s a petroleum-based product that accounts for about 2 percent of the world’s use of oil. As oil becomes increasingly scarce, industries at the bottom of the pecking order in terms of importance, such as textiles, will get the lowest priority in access to the raw material they need to make their products. Translation: Polyester is going to become more expensive and harder to come by.
As oil becomes increasingly scarce, polyester is going to become more expensive and harder to come by.
Cotton is the second-most used fabric on the planet, and it’s a very water-reliant product. It takes 400 to 715 gallons of water to make a single organic cotton T-shirt. An example of the environmental impact of cotton production can be found in the Aral Sea on the border of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. It is, or at least was, the fourth largest body of fresh water on the planet. It’s now 90 percent dry because its tributaries were diverted for irrigation, chiefly to grow cotton. Suffice to say, the world’s water becomes scarcer, we will have less access to cotton, as well.