Welcome back to the #GreenestTee! So far, we’ve covered the basics for creating the most sustainable t-shirt in the world: designing for longevity, selecting the right fiber, and adding some color.
So what’s next? Let’s focus on the solutions! This week’s blog is all about reducing the waste created throughout the supply chain as much as possible. By doing so, we can ensure that the materials being used are maximized to their full potential as well as the overall environmental footprint of the supply chain is decreased.
Today, we’re focusing on waste management.
Digging into the Waste
To begin, there are tons of waste generated by the consumers themselves in the textile industry. It is estimated that in Europe and America, 10 million tonnes of textiles are discarded every year.
But, did you know about the amount of waste generated in creating the t-shirt itself? We estimate around 37% of the fibre is lost throughout the production process of the t-shirt. Fibre and fabric waste throughout the supply chain has one of the highest impacts to the environment. In fact, it’s even higher than the dyeing and fabric making stage combined. Here’s the breakdown:
Waste can include anything from leftover textile samples (swatch waste), cut-and-sew textile waste, end-of-roll textile waste, and damaged textiles. So, to lessen this waste created in the supply chain, let’s follow the classic 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
In the assembly stage, waste reduction techniques include:
Reduce (best case scenario):
- Design for zero-waste. Create clothing patterns that leave less fabric on the cutting room floor. Explore new cutting techniques and fashion silhouettes to ensure that fabric is not wasted. Here are some designers who are achieving just that, through their zero-waste philosophies.
- Use computer aided design (CAD) to achieve maximum fabric usage efficiencies. It is a more efficient and sustainable way of designing clothing before production. By keeping a focus on sustainability from the get-go, the designer can ensure that the clothing design generates less waste and is built for longevity.
- Use simple patterns in creating clothing. More complicated patterns and multiple colors involved create more waste in total.
- Use minimal seam construction techniques to ensure that the manufacturing process is much quicker and lesser quantity of fabric is used. On top of this, the wearer can have greater freedom of movement and experience increased comfort.
- Change up your method of construction. Using a jigsaw puzzle method of cutting and sewing, the pattern pieces essentially interlock on a length of fabric. Through this, no waste is created as each garment piece only fit together in one way.
- Reuse scrap for other items, especially accessories. All the materials that are leftover from the assembly processes can be used for smaller items like headbands, jewellery or other accessories.
- Check if any of your suppliers recycle the scraps into yarns. Scraps of fabric can be shredded or pulled into fibers, cleaned and mixed through a carding process, and re-spun to use for other weaving and knitting projects.
In the yarn spinning, the ways to reduce waste include:
- Talk to your supplier to ensure that the waste yarn from the combing and carding stages are being reused by being fed back into the same system. About 90% of the fibers wasted can be recovered and be mixed into the same blend (up to a proportion of 2.5% without any negative effects on quality).
In the fabric stage, the ways to reduce waste include:
- Discuss with your supplier on how to recycle scraps of fabrics and use them as new raw materials for industries such as automotive, furniture, mattress, home furnishings, paper, and others. Each year, 750,000 tons of this waste is recycled, which diverts approximately 75% of the pre-consumer textile waste from landfills.
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Waste in the textile industry is a growing concern and has widespread impacts on the environment. But the exciting and hopeful part of this is that most unmixed textiles are 100% recyclable and our current clothing items have the potential to meet our needs multiple times over, both in the pre-consumer and post-consumer stages. By focusing on the design of the textiles themselves and integrating zero waste techniques throughout the supply chain, we can ensure that the waste produced can be reduced as much as possible.