Circular Fashion - Closing the Loop

Circular Fashion - Closing the Loop

Most Americans throw away 70 pounds of clothing and textiles every year, but almost 95% of that could be recovered by recycling” [1]. Nevertheless, only a small fraction is. Fashion has had a linear life cycle for decades: a brand sells garments, users wear it during a period of time and, when it loses its charm or is worn out, they throw it away. But, is there something we can do to prevent so many clothes from going to waste?

Natural cycles, such as the water or carbon cycle, for the longest time, have been using other cycles’ waste as resources. Nevertheless, this does not happen in our society. Almost every product, once it has served its purpose, is thrown away. This is detrimental to the environment because landfills and incineration of waste generate harmful chemicals and release them into the atmosphere.

Circular economy is a term referring to taking advantage of products at the end of their lifetime. “Reuse what you can, recycle what cannot be reused, repair what is broken, remanufacture what cannot be repaired” [2]. The objective of the circular fashion economy is to turn that line into a circle - to not let the cycle end there. Many clothes can be given different uses long after one thinks they are done providing value.

There are four simple things one can do to support circular fashion: repurpose, repair, donate and recycle. First we have repurposing. This means taking a garment and giving it a new meaning. One popular way of doing this is through upcycling, which turns a piece that otherwise might go to waste into something that you can use. For example, if your jeans are fraying at the bottom or if the rips have become too messy, you can turn those well-fitting jeans into an amazing pair of denim shorts!

Repairing is also important. By mending your clothing, you keep your favorite pieces for longer, slowing down your consumption of new clothes. Don’t be afraid to stitch that little hole on your favorite jacket!

Another thing you can do is donate. If your clothes do not fit anymore or they are not your style, you can donate them to someone who can give them a better use. Find your local shelter or donation center and help give your garments a chance to be loved again while preventing them from ending up in landfills.

Finally, recycle. Only 1% of clothes is being recycled into new clothes [3]. This does not only represent losses as high as USD 100 billion annually [4], but also a huge toll on the environment. Those materials made from high quality single fibers, especially natural fibers, are the easiest to recycle [5] but it is important to also recycle garments made from other materials since they would take longer to decompose.

Remember: these are ways to close the loop and help reduce waste, but also consider not starting the loop if there is no need. Only buy what you need, since most people have pieces they own but do not wear. And try to shop second hand - you can find some gems if you look well!





[1] Pandit, P., Nadathur, G.T., & Jose, S. (2019). Upcycled and low-cost sustainable business for value-added textiles and fashion. Circular Economy in Textiles and Apparel.

[2] Stahel, W.R. (2016). The circular economy. Nature, 531, 435-438.

[3] Fleischmann, M. (2019). How Much Do Our Wardrobes Cost to the Environment?

[4] Rathinamoorthy, R. (2019). Circular fashion. Circular Economy in Textiles and Apparel.

[5] Hill, M. (2021). The Ultimate Guide to Recycled Clothing Materials.

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