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SGS advocates textile durability in a shifting circular economy

In an era where many countries are increasingly embracing the principles of a circular economy, SGS, a global leader in testing, inspection, and certification, is championing the cause of textile durability in the fashion industry. The influential Ellen MacArthur Foundation has highlighted the alarming fact that “every second, the equivalent of a rubbish truck load of clothes is burnt or buried in landfill.” This startling statistic underscores the urgency of transitioning from the current linear economy model of ‘manufacture, distribute, wear, and discard’ to a more sustainable approach.

The fashion industry, while a source of employment and happiness for millions, is plagued by its wasteful practices. The average garment is now worn only ten times before being discarded, representing a 36% decrease over the last 15 years. Moreover, flimsy clothing and surging global demand contribute to an estimated 92 million tonnes of textile waste being generated annually.

The solution to this crisis lies in adopting a circular economy model, where products are manufactured, distributed, worn, re-used, repaired, and finally recycled. In this circular economy, materials and products are used repeatedly, reducing the constant need for new resources. Not only does this approach benefit the environment, but it also has significant financial advantages, with an estimated $4.5 trillion set to be released into the global economy by 2030 through this transition.

France is at the forefront of this shift, having adopted an Anti-Waste Law in 2020 with comprehensive measures aimed at reducing waste and pollution. While not all provisions directly impact the fashion industry, the overarching goals of better resource management and increased transparency will inevitably influence the design, sale, and disposal of clothing items.

Recycling of clothing is a crucial component of the circular economy, yet only 1% of textiles are currently recycled, with the majority ending up in landfills or being incinerated. The reasons behind this low recycling rate are multifaceted, including challenges related to recycling mixed fibers, concerns over the quality of recycled fibers, inadequate recycling infrastructure, and consumer awareness issues. Additionally, some markets exhibit reluctance towards second-hand clothing.

Recognizing the need for change, many manufacturers are now focusing on producing clothing items with increased durability. This approach brings multiple benefits, including enhanced customer satisfaction, a reduced environmental footprint, opportunities for clothing rental and recycling initiatives, improved brand image, and an elevated market position as leaders in the circular fashion movement.

In some markets, companies may also enjoy financial incentives. For instance, in France, the eco-organization responsible for textile, household linen, and footwear waste management offers discounts on fees for products that are more durable and meet specific performance requirements.

As more countries look to transition towards a circular economy, manufacturers and brands that prioritize durability not only ensure continued market compliance but also benefit from happier customers and participation in positive initiatives like take-back and recycling.

SGS, a global leader in this arena, provides a comprehensive range of durability assessment services tailored to the specific needs of manufacturers and brands. These services cover testing protocols related to base materials, performance, and longevity, helping manufacturers deliver value-added, durable products to markets worldwide. SGS understands that trust is earned through rigorous testing, and it stands at the forefront of advocating textile durability in a circular economy.

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