Waste in the fashion industry is an increasing concern for all, with an estimated 11.3 million tons of fashion garments, in the US alone, every year. In this blog post, we are going to dive into understanding how widespread waste in the fashion industry really is, what the solution for this waste is and how Balena is helping fashion brands pave the way for a more sustainable, circular future
A closer look: What you need to know about fashion waste
Globally, the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry after the oil and gas industries. Responsible for 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually with water usage and pollution being major environmental contenders. One of the main contributors to this, is the manufacturers and retailers themselves, who generate around 13 million tons of textile fashion waste every year, largely due to overproduction. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the textiles industry relies mostly on “non-renewable resources - 98 million tonnes in total per year - including oil to produce synthetic fibres, fertilisers to grow cotton and textiles’. With the fashion industry's low rates of product use and low levels of recycling, the current wasteful, linear system lifecycle is the root cause of this massive and ever-expanding pressure on resources.
So, what do we mean when we say linear system lifecycle?
The demand for clothing is increasing day-by-day as a result of increasing population, rising living standards and the change in fast fashion trends. With this, comes the increase in the amount of textile waste. The average garment follows a linear lifecycle. In a linear lifecycle, products are created for one-use, and after they fulfil their use, they are considered waste, landing up in landfills, which are often not managed safely or sustainably, and land up being burnt. This process generates large amounts of greenhouse methane gases and releases harmful toxic chemicals and dyes into the groundwater and soil. This linear system of take, make, waste contributes to the one-way road to an ever-increasing amount of waste, plastic and chemicals, causing damage to the earth and seas. We can extend the life of natural resources by replacing this linear system with a circular approach.
Moving forward: A circular product lifecycle approach
Through rethinking and redesigning fashion materials, we can create a continuous loop for the life of garments. This approach aims to maintain the value of the products and resources in the economy for as long as possible while creating long-term value for the environment by reducing pollution and waste infiltrating water and soil. Designing and developing materials that can biodegrade and decompose back into the earth safely without leaving harmful waste and chemicals behind is the way of the future. This will enable us to complete a fully circular lifecycle approach that is required for a more sustainable future.
The steps Balena is taking to fight fashion textile waste
In order to foster a truly circular economy for people, brands and the environment, and to control a garment's end-of-life status, Balena enabled a new method known as BioCycling (Biological recycling). BioCycling products are taken back at the end of their use and go through decomposition and biodegradation in a compost environment without leaving any waste or contamination behind. Through the development of Balena’s first material, BioCir, BioCycling can occur.
BioCir is the world’s first flexible and fully compostable material that biodegrades fully and safely in industrial compost environments. A unique combination of naturally occurring constituents binded by high molecular weight polymers and modifiers, BioCir enables an elastomeric functionality for the fashion industry.
As our material is fully biodegradable at the end of its use, products made of BioCir reduce the amount of waste in landfills and in doing so reduce air, ground and water pollution all while supporting the creation of significant amounts of organic compost that can be used in agriculture. Giving back to the environment instead of damaging it. Additionally, through our current manufacturing process, we are able to reduce the use of fossil fuel sources in polymer production by up to 60%, with the aim of eventually reducing our reliance on fossil fuels completely.
Click here to learn more about our BioCir material.
While textile and fashion waste may be on the rise, here at Balena we are on a mission to create a circular model for consumer goods products and ensure they have a clear end-of-life solution that will deliver value to our society not just now but in the future. We envision a full-scale transformation in the fashion industry, through proper education alongside advanced material engineering. We continue to develop partnerships and build on existing relationships to help transform the fashion industry.