Textile waste is increasing: We have to rethink
The consumption of fashion in Germany is increasing. Between 2013 and 2015, the domestic availability of textiles increased from around 1.3 million tons to over 1.5 million tons. Sooner or later, however, coats, pants and the like will be mucked out again. In 2018, textile waste totaled around 53,000 tons compared to 20,000 tons in 2015, according to the study "Demand, Consumption and Reuse of Clothing and Textiles" conducted by the Federal Association for Secondary Raw Materials and Waste Disposal. (BVSE). Arianna Nicoletti is Textiles Lead at Circular Berlin, a non-profit organization that works to promote a functioning recycling economy in the capital. For her, there is still plenty of room for improvement when it comes to recycling: "There is a lack of companies and processes capable of separating and recycling used textiles in a meaningful way, because that would require a lot of money and development time. In addition, recycling often fails due to inadequate labeling of the materials. It is not always clear which material composition is present and which chemicals have been used in production".
Design is crucial
In addition to the clear labelling of materials and the promotion of recycling technologies and companies, a rethinking of the design and production process is above all necessary. "The design process is the first and most important starting point. If, for example, no blended fabrics are processed and/or chemicals are largely dispensed with in production, this makes the recycling process much easier. The designers have a great deal of influence on which path the textiles will take later; whether they end up in the incinerator, are downcycled to building materials or, for example, will be used in their new function for many years to come. Most of the time it is also they who decide whether recycled materials will be included in the collection," says Nicoletti.
The organizers of the Circular Design Sprint, at whose closing event in Berlin in October Nicoletti will speak, also want to start with design. Young fashion designers have been invited to develop ideas that can be circulated in online workshops. Nicoletti: "Such initiatives are important and must definitely be promoted. I also believe that cities and municipalities have a fundamental duty to provide greater support for recyclable products and processes. This can be through information campaigns, by offering rooms for repair cafés, second hand stores and the like, or by promoting innovative ideas and concepts". Of course, each individual also decides how sustainable his consumption is. "The enormous consumption is the biggest hurdle when it comes to sustainable consumption. More and more textile waste is being produced from low-quality materials. That's why we should make every purchase decision consciously - even away from textiles," Nicoletti concludes.