Sustainable clothing futures
What do the sustainable value chains for future clothing look like? It is to be found out by IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, the University of Borås and Profu in a new research project.
– The clothing industry is facing major sustainability challenges today, both in terms of environmental and social sustainability. The production of clothing requires a lot of water, chemicals, raw materials and land area, which contributes to extensive environmental impact. We also consume way too much clothes and use them too few times before they are thrown away, says Maja Dahlbom, project manager at IVL Swedish Environmental Institute.
In Europe, we consume an average of 26 kg of textiles per person per year, of which 60% are clothes. Lower prices and fast fashion habits have doubled clothing consumption and increased waste volumes over the past 15 years. Many garments that could have been reused or recycled today end up in the residual waste, which in best case goes to energy recovery (incineration) or in worst case is put in landfill, something that is common abroad. It is estimated that every Swede throws away an average of eight kilos of textiles per year, which is almost 200 tonnes of textile waste every day.
– It is a huge waste of resources. To counteract this development, we need to change the way we consume clothes. In this project, we will investigate how consumers via digital platforms can be encouraged to consume fashion more circularly by buying second hand, renting clothes and mending broken garments instead of buying new. We need to find ways to decouple fashion experiences from resource use and bring about a systemic change towards circularity, says Christian Fuentes, professor at the University of Borås.
The project Sustainable clothing futures, led by IVL, covers several aspects of sustainability in the clothing industry. Among other things, there will be a mapping of consumer behaviour linked to new business models, for example subscription of clothes. New techniques for production and recycling are going to be investigated and political measures for a more sustainable clothing industry and consumption will be evaluated. The effect of e-commerce, home delivery and returns will also receive extra attention as it can increase transport.
The project, carried out by an interdisciplinary research group, will combine field studies in consumption behaviour with the construction of system dynamic scenarios, life cycle analysis and policy analysis. It will provide insights into the motives and factors that affect the clothing industry in the transition to a more sustainable industry. During the project, input from various stakeholders, including consumers, representatives from the clothing and recycling industry and decision-makers, will be used to create scenarios for future value chains for clothing. The scale-up through scenarios will also clarify the potential for creating new roles and jobs in the European clothing industry in the future.
The aim is to identify the most promising methods and technologies that can lead to a more sustainable clothing industry and see under what circumstances they can become a reality, says Hanna Ljungkvist Nordin, assistant project manager at Profu.
The project includes researchers and employees from the IVL Swedish Environmental Institute and the University of Borås, including the Swedish School of Textiles and Science Park Borås, as well as the environmental consulting company Profu. The project runs until the end of 2024 and is financed by Formas. The project is linked to the research groups Textile Value Chain Management and Digital consumption at the University of Borås.