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Clothes consumption has gone crazy. The introduction of cheap, synthetic fibres has meant that the price of new duds is dropping. This has had all kinds of consequences. here are some reports on the subject….

Cambridge University report issued 2006 titled Well Dressed? The Present and Future Sustainability of Clothing and Textiles in the United Kingdom
The followed statistics have been culled from the above report and have been lightly edited.
In 2000 the world’s consumers spent around US$1 trillion worldwide buying clothes. Around one third of sales were in Western Europe, one third in North America and one quarter in Asia.
Output from the sector is growing in volume, but prices are dropping, as is employment, as new technology and vertically integrated structures support improved productivity.
Growth in volumes is almost entirely associated with polyester – volumes of natural fibre production and use having remained approximately constant for several years.
3.25 million tonnes of clothing and textiles flow through the UK each year – approximately 55kg per person.
Approximately two thirds of the imports of fibres, yarns and fabrics to the UK are man-made.
Consumers in the UK spend about £780 per head per year, purchasing around 2.15 million tonnes (35kg per person) of which one eighth is sent for re-use through charities and the rest is discarded.
UK consumption of clothing and textile products Total consumption: 2,156 thousand tonnes About 50% clothing and 50% textiles
The major products consumed were: 420 thousand tonnes of trousers, T-shirts and pullovers 530 thousand tonnes of carpets
From 2001 to 2005 spending on women’s clothing grew by 21% and that on men’s by 14%. During the same time – as the end of the quota arrangement approached in 2005 – prices actually dropped by 14%
Consumers in the UK spend about £780 per head per year, purchasing around 2.15 million tonnes (35kg per person) of which one eighth is sent for re-use through charities and the rest is discarded.

You can download a copy for free here

WRAP have also been researching.
WRAP’s ground breaking report provides the first big picture look at the financial and environmental impacts of clothing.
Key findings include:
the average UK household owns around £4,000 worth of clothes – and around 30% of clothing in wardrobes has not been worn for at least a year;
the cost of this unused clothing is around £30 billion;
extending the average life of clothes by just three months of active use would lead to a 5-10% reduction in each of the carbon, water and waste footprints; and
an estimated £140 million worth (around 350,000 tonnes) of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year.

You can download valuing clothes report here

The Telegraph has something to say on the subject…
While every other waste streams going to landfill is reducing, the amount of textiles being buried in the ground has shot up by a third in recent years as people buy more cheap clothing than ever before as a result of the so-callled ‘Primark effect’.
Around 60 per cent of clothing sent for recycling is sold to other countries for re-use, mostly Africa and Eastern Europe, another 35 per cent is re-used as mattress stuffing or insulation and under five per cent is such low quality it is sent to landfill. Telegraph

O Ecotextiles

The estimated energy and water needed to produce that amount of fabric boggles the mind:

  • 1,074 billion kWh of electricity  or 132 million metric tons of coal and
  • between 6 – 9 trillion liters of water[3]

A study done by the Stockholm Environment Institute on behalf of the BioRegional Development Group  concludes that the energy used (and therefore the CO2 emitted) to create 1 ton of spun fiber is much higher for synthetics than for hemp or cotton:

KG of CO2 emissions per ton of spun fiber:
crop cultivation fiber production TOTAL
polyester USA 0.00 9.52 9.52
cotton, conventional, USA 4.20 1.70 5.90
hemp, conventional 1.90 2.15 4.05
cotton, organic, India 2.00 1.80 3.80
cotton, organic, USA 0.90 1.45 2.35

The table above only gives results for polyester; other synthetics have more of an impact:  acrylic is 30% more energy intensive in its production than polyester [7] and nylon is even higher than that.

Estimating the Carbon Footprint of Fabrics

today’s textile industry is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gasses on Earth, due to the huge size and scope of the industry as well as the many processes and products that go into the making of textiles and finished textile products. (See Vivek Dev, “Carbon Footprint of Textiles”, April 3, 2009, http://www.domain-b.com/environment/20090403_carbon_footprint.html)

Ethical Fashion Forum

The largest climate change impact from clothing is the energy wasted in washing, tumble-drying and ironing. In the lifespan of an average T-shirt 50% of the global climate change impact comes from the washing process after it has ben purchased. This impact can be reduced simply by lowering the washing temperature and eliminating tumble drying and ironing. (Allwood et al. 2006)

http://www.ci-romero.de/fileadmin/media/informieren-themen/gruene_mode/Jungmichel._Systain.pdf

According to Procter & Gamble Co., the average American family does about 300 loads of laundry per year, or about six loads per week. That suggests a per-family carbon footprint from doing laundry of about 480 pounds per year, or about 10 pounds per week. And that doesn’t include running the dryer.

Key findings include:

  • the average UK household owns around £4,000 worth of clothes – and around 30% of clothing in wardrobes has not been worn for at least a year;
  • the cost of this unused clothing is around £30 billion;
  • extending the average life of clothes by just three months of active use would lead to a 5-10% reduction in each of the carbon, water and waste footprints; and
  • an estimated £100 million worth (based on 2015 prices) or around 350,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year.

More

Micro pollution

Traditional plastics degrade rather than biodegrade, which means they simply break up and fall apart into smaller pieces. The plastic has not changed its structure as such – merely fragmented. And it seems the process can continue indefinitely. Particles of plastic of 20 microns in diameter (a width thinner than a human hair) have been identified.

Sources of micro plastics are
Synthetic clothing that release thousands of plastic fibres every wash.
Read more here

Do call back as we will be adding more outrageous statistics as we, slack- jawed, find them 

You can see all our posts on clothing, fabrics and the plastic-free wardrobe here.

 

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