There are too many clothes and too many of them are made, sold, bought and finally thrown away. Every Finn throws away 13 kg of textile waste per year on average. We must not allow any more old clothes to end up in a landfill site. We must consider other ways to design products than the current culture of throwawayism that prevails in the clothing industry. In other words, we should only buy new things when we actually need them, and we should invest in good quality. High-quality fabric and clothing made of such fabric can endure repair, alteration or utilisation of the material in the manufacturing of new clothing. The circular economy means much more than simply recycling clothing – it means rethinking the entire lifecycle of clothing in pursuit of zero waste.
A product’s lifecycle refers to its various phases, starting from the production of raw materials and ending in the product being discarded. Every phase of the product’s lifecycle consumes energy, natural resources, materials such as various chemicals and water and tools. The product itself only contains a fraction of the natural resources that are used during its lifecycle. The rest is returned to the environment as waste or emissions. The most significant environmental impacts of textiles are related to the use of energy and water as well as chemicals that are hazardous to the environment and health. They are used in all phases of the production chain, all the way from the production of raw materials to the finished product.
When designing and manufacturing circular economy products, the new product’s future lifecycle and all later production phases should also be taken into account. The lifecycle is affected by the choice of material for the product and the product’s manufacturing, use, care, disposal, recycling or reuse. ‘Despite the downturn in the last few years, the global clothing industry has grown at an annual rate of 5.5 per cent. At the same time, it is estimated that the EU countries produce a total of 16 million tonnes of textile waste per year. The consume and throw away model is still alive and well,’ Greens MP Antero Vartia wrote in his blog post on 9 May 2018.
The same guarantee policies that apply to traditionally produced products also apply to circular economy products. Responsible purchasing of clothing is worth it, buy only when you actually need something, favour clothing with an ethical certificate or an eco-label, upcycle, borrow and recycle. When pricing and evaluating the profitability of a circular economy product, you must take the amount of work performed into account, from the purchasing of materials and possible washing and alterations to the design and manufacturing processes. The amount of work is always high relative to the price of the materials when making circular economy products.