Challenges and the future

Are we stuck in a rat race of consumption? The Earth’s natural resources are in danger of running out due to unsustainable consumption. In order for the Earth to be preserved in a habitable condition for future generations, our consumption habits must change and we must transition to more responsible consumption.Responsible consumption means transitioning from a linear economy to a circular economy in which the waste from one production chain serves as raw material for another production chain.By implementing the circular economy, we will improve the quality of our own lives, save money and save the Earth.The development of new recycling methods for textiles, for example, is a challenge we will face in the future.
Haasteet ja tulevaisuus
Photo: Maija Matikainen  

The greatest challenge posed to the circular economy is the need for a change in attitudes at all levels, among both companies and private consumers. In order to become a reality, the circular economy requires active participation from everyone. Consumers are also responsible for their own choices.

Before we can resolve the organisation of continuous collection in the circular economy of textiles, we must first decide how the materials collected will be used. 

When we talk about textile waste, we are talking about enormous amounts of textiles that will most likely continue to increase in the future. A textile waste processing plant is under development in Finland.

The most ecological and economical thing would be to reuse textile materials as is, as the recycling and reuse of textile materials always causes costs. 

At present, virgin materials are still cheaper than those offered by the circular economy, which continues to drive companies to choose virgin materials in their production. Public attitudes towards the circular economy could be made more positive by increasing consumers’ knowledge of the ethical and environmental impacts of textile production. In the future, some of these challenges may be resolved by digitalisation. 

The textile and fashion industry promotes the circular economy by seeking new solutions for the manufacturing of fibres. By utilising new technologies, it is possible to turn textile waste into new materials. From an environmental perspective, reuse and recycling are always better alternatives than the utilisation of textiles in the generation of energy if this allows virgin textile production to be reduced.

Methods for lengthening the lifecycle of textile products: 

  • improving the quality of products 
  • offering textile repair and care services 
  • enhancing the sharing economy through textile and clothing rental, for example 
  • chemical recycling and manufacturing of new fibre 
  • processing discarded textiles. 

Challenges posed to the circular economy of textiles: 

  • We must create an efficient collecting and sorting system. 
  • We must come up with a solution to the gathering of large flows of uniform-quality waste textile material for the needs of the companies that utilise them. 
  • We must produce recycled fibre for companies’ needs at a competitive price and as an alternative to virgin materials. 
  • We must increase consumers’ awareness of textile production. It may increase the use of recycled textiles and make consumers’ attitudes more favourable towards the circular economy. 
  • We must increase appreciation for recycled fibres. 
  • We must increase demand for products manufactured from recycled materials. 

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Video interview on 14 September 2018: Journalist Sami Sykkö interviews Assistant Professor Timo Rissanen, an international expert in the circular economy at Parsons School of Design in New York. The video was produced by media students at Helsinki Vocational College as part of their studies.