How the Circular Economy in Fashion Works

The system we rely on for clothing production, distribution, and disposal is largely broken. Non-renewable resources are extracted and exploited for our clothes to end up in landfill or incineration.

The production process is mostly linear right now (produce-use-discard). To see a shift in this the fashion industry will need a radical transformation that involves collaboration among textile companies; a move away from the use of non-renewable resources so waste is effectively ‘designed out’.

Inorganic materials, like, polyester and nylon could be recycled in the best way possible, so they can stay in a continuous cycle, without losing any quality. While natural materials manufactured for a circular economy can safely decompose without causing harm to the environment. This will change the current linear system into a circular system known as the circular economy.

Today, less than 1% of clothing is recycled, and by 2025 clothing waste accumulated between now and then will weigh as much as the world’s population (Ellen McArthur Foundation, 2017).  The demand for clothing continues to grow. If the world stays on this trajectory clothing sales in 2050 would reach 160 million tonnes. This is over three times that of today. Unethical working conditions, child labour, and the negative impact over-consumption have on poorer communities demand attention, too.

These figures are a little overwhelming, but ethically conscious consumers are increasing, and businesses are listening. A global solution is required but so too is a local one. Circular fashion on a smaller scale (i.e. in households or communities) can be done.

Maximising the use of kids’ clothing, buying investment pieces, re-selling, and donating to charity shops, or giving to friends and family can all help to keep clothing out of landfills for as long as possible. Buying more expensive clothes for children that are constantly growing may feel completely pointless. But if we buy less, use them more often, and pass them on when finished we’re taking one small step in the right direction.

When shopping for children’s clothing looking for details that are durable and grow with children, like, adjustable straps, turn-ups, and organic materials will increase wear and extend the life of clothes. Switching to brands and retailers that are transparent about their production, materials, and durability means we at least know where our clothes are coming from, and who this directly impacts.

Investing in high-quality clothing is something Sonny Bear is passionate about. The selection on site is from brands that are innovating and using materials in their production process that is kinder to the environment. They are designed to last using largely organic cotton.

Policymakers, businesses, educators, institutions, NGOs, international bodies, and plenty of higher up forces play a vital role in shaping the systematic change that’s required for a fully circular economy to work. But that doesn’t mean we can’t all play an individual part by changing our purchasing habits.

For more information on the circular economy and how the textile industry influences this the Ellen MacArthur Foundation report can be found here.

Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation, A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashion’s future, (2017, http://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications)