Is It Even Possible to Clean Up Fashion?

You know that fashion’s waste problem is bad when the chair of a fabric recycling company writes an op-ed about how her groundbreaking upcycling technology is barely enough to make a dent.

Ronna Chao, Chair of Novetex Textiles Limited, penned an op-ed for Quartz in which she argues that even if she were able to scale her operation, Fashion would remain as ecological disastrous as ever.

As she explains, even though multiple large companies have made admirable-sounding sustainability pledges in recent months – though the merits of those pledges are debatable — the fashion industry is excessive by design. “Anticipating excess inventory is the norm,” Chao writes, “which makes it impossible to escape being wasteful.”

Just how much waste are we talking about? According to Chao, if Novatex’s Billie System — wherein up to “three tons of excess stock” is processed daily — were scaled, it would require “upcycling and recycling facilities to be as ubiquitous — and accessible — as convenience stores in every city… [to process] the amount of waste we’re putting into landfills.” And, as Chao says, “that’s not going to happen.”

What we need, according to Chao, are “incentives, policies, bolstered enforcement measures, and sufficient funding that can not only encourage, but make mandatory a culture of recycling.” Which sounds good, but that means that everyone — government, companies, consumers and producers — would need to make it a priority.

(For those noting that our government is currently targeting a consumer vaping product that’s statistically less dangerous than vending machines, you’re right. That’s all.)

“Thinking within the confines of a circular economy poses one of the biggest creative challenges of our generation, and old habits die hard,” Chao said. “What the movement requires… is to hold ourselves accountable — because we are.”

You can read more about it at Quartz.

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