Ellen MacArthur launches new circular fibres initiative

Written by: Editorial staff | Published:

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has unveiled a new initiative that aims to bring together key industry stakeholders to build a circular economy for textiles, starting with clothing.

According to Dame Ellen MacArthur, participants in the Circular Fibres Initiative will "work together to define a vision for a new global fibres system which will address the significant drawbacks of the ‘take-make-dispose’ model currently dominating the industry".

Textiles is reported to be the second global materials flow that the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has focussed on.

In 2016, the Foundation launched the New Plastics Economy initiative, bringing together key stakeholders including businesses across the value chain, city authorities, intergovernmental organisations, scientists, designers and other innovators, to build a plastics system that works. The success of this first initiative, which includes two major reports presented at the Word Economic Forum in Davos, stakeholder workshops and significant media attention, has highlighted the importance of a pre-competitive, collaborative mindset amongst participants.

"Fibres are an important part of today’s global economy: clothing production has doubled in the last 15 years, with sales of footwear and apparel reaching $1.67 trillion in 2016[1]. Meanwhile consumers keep their clothing for half the time that they did 15 years ago. After use, only around 15% of apparel waste is collected in the US, while the remaining 85% ends up in landfill. This characteristically linear economy, based on extractive and consumptive patterns, puts high demand on land, energy and other resources. The production and use of clothing accounts for around 3% of global CO2 emissions, and cotton production is now responsible for a quarter of worldwide insecticide use," said Dame Ellen.

As a first step, the Circular Fibres Initiative will produce, with McKinsey & Co. as knowledge partner, an analysis of the textiles industry, mapping how textiles flow around the global economy, and the externalities that arise from the current system. It will explore what a new, circular economy for textiles - one that is restorative and regenerative - could look like, and lay out the steps needed to build it. The Initiative’s first report is due for publication in autumn 2017.

"The way we produce, use, and reprocess clothing today is inherently wasteful, and current rising demand increases the negative impacts. The Circular Fibres Initiative aims to catalyse change across the industry by creating an ambitious, fact-based vision for a new global textiles system, underpinned by circular economy principles, that has economic, environmental, and social benefits, and can operate successfully in the long term," added Dame Ellen.

Leslie Johnston, executive director of the C&A Foundation, stated: "The Circular Fibres Initiative is important because it will establish the shared agenda and deep collaboration needed to shift the apparel industry to regenerative and sustaining business models."

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