Categories: FeaturedOpinion

Role of Sustainable Brands in combating climate change: Opinion

Written by Mr Kapil Bhatia, CEO & Founder UNIREC

Fashion greatly impacts the environment, from emitting lots of greenhouse gases to using up valuable resources. But with sustainable brands starting to gain traction, there’s hope that we can make a positive change and combat the climate crisis. The statistics are concerning. Since the 1970s, plastic production has grown faster than any other material.

If current trends continue, global production of primary plastic is projected to reach 1,100 million tonnes by 2050, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Approximately 36 per cent of all plastics produced are used in packaging, including single-use plastic products for food and beverage containers, with a staggering 85 per cent ending up in landfills or as unregulated waste.

The problem extends beyond packaging. A 2017 Guardian article highlights that plastic bottle usage could surge to over half a trillion sold annually worldwide by the decade’s end – equivalent to approximately 20,000 bottles bought per second or over 1 million plastic bottles per minute. UNEP further estimates that 75 to 199 million tonnes of plastic currently pollute our oceans, and unless we change how we produce, use, and dispose of plastic, the amount entering aquatic ecosystems could nearly triple from 9-14 million tonnes per year in 2016 to 23-37 million tonnes per year by 2040.

However, within this disturbing scenario, sustainable brands in the fashion industry are acting. They are moving beyond biodegradable bags and transforming fashion with recycled plastic. One noteworthy sustainable fabric gaining traction is recycled polyester, created using fibers from post-consumer plastic bottles. This fabric offers a major opportunity to reuse plastic waste and produce long-lasting, sustainable clothes.

Implementing recycled polyester and other sustainable fabrics positively impacts the carbon footprint. Firstly, producing recycled polyester consumes less energy than virgin polyester, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This energy conservation eases the industry’s carbon footprint while fighting climate change. Moreover, sustainable fabric production conserves water resources, reducing strain on freshwater sources.

Traditional textile production often utilized harmful chemicals and processes that degraded soil quality. A 2020 Imperial College London study revealed plastic outperforms alternatives like cotton in areas including water use and emissions.
Producing a pound of cotton requires about 1,400 gallons of water, while recycled polyesters require virtually none during production, and even virgin polyester uses only small amounts as a coolant.

By embracing recycled polyester, sustainable brands actively contribute to waste reduction, protecting the environment, conserving resources, and safeguarding ecosystems by indirectly promoting soil preservation and maintaining agricultural land fertility.

Additionally, textile-to-textile recycling is still new, with only a small percentage of clothing and shoes recycled. The fashion industry continues finding creative ways to convert more plastic waste into wearable clothing, showing adaptability. Recycled polyester is changing fashion’s culture, recognizing trendy styles can coexist with sustainable commitments.

Adopting sustainable practices impacts branding and consumer perception. Today’s consumers are environmentally conscious, preferring ethical business practices. By using sustainable fabrics, fashion brands can position themselves as progressive industry leaders, attracting loyal customers through favorable associations.

The numbers highlight the fashion industry’s significant greenhouse gas emissions, approximately 4% globally, equivalent to France, Germany, and the United Kingdom combined. Cotton cultivation also pollutes soil and water sources with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. However, recycled polyester reduces the industry’s environmental impact. According to Textile Exchange, it represents a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to virgin polyester.

Polyester fabrics from recycled polyester are affordable, durable, and require less water for laundering and maintenance than cotton or wool. While textile-to-textile recycling is new, with only about 13% of all clothing and shoes recycled, the fashion industry shows adaptability.

Plastic has helped change the industry’s culture, recognizing trendy styles can coexist with sustainability. Sustainable brands using recycled plastic in fashion significantly address the plastic waste crisis and reduce the industry’s environmental impact. By embracing sustainable practices and recycled polyester, the fashion industry plays a key role in fighting climate change and ensuring a more responsible future.


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