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Circular economy still a dream

Signatories of the 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment have made just 21 per cent progress toward goals meant to accelerate the fashion industry’s transition to a circular economy.

So says Global Fashion Agenda, the sustainability think tank. The 90 participating brands and retailers, which collectively represent 12.5 per cent of the global fashion market, achieved 45 of 213 targets set in 2017.

The biggest obstacle for signatories lies in increasing the share of garments and/or footwear made from recycled post-consumer textile fibers. Most signatories are still in the early phases of integrating post-consumer textile fibers in their production processes. Moving forward beyond research and development requires a close relationship between suppliers and partners as a prerequisite for success, something that is time-consuming and resource-intensive. The dearth of solutions that facilitate higher-quality fiber-to-fiber recycling is one roadblock; the challenges of quality control are another.

Signatories find it difficult to monitor pre- and post-consumer textile fibers separately. They also have trouble keeping track of the chemical compositions of input and output materials to ensure product safety. For small and medium enterprises, finding materials that meet both their quality standards and suppliers’ minimum requirements proves a headache. With larger companies, the barriers revolve largely around scalability and a lack of specialized suppliers and common standards.