How can textiles achieve net-zero emissions? Judging the current rate of fashion production coupled with consumer consumption, it’s bad news for our carbon footprint. 

2030 projections predict global clothing consumption will increase by sixty-three per cent (63%). The equivalent of 500 billion new T-shirts. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recounts, ‘it takes 3,800 litres of water to make one pair of jeans’. 

The scales are imbalanced. 

We are overproducing, over consuming, rarely use everything we purchase and not disposing or recycling responsibly. 

This wasteful cycle encapsulates the ethos of fast fashion. Between 100-150 billion new apparel items are produced annually. The population of the planet is just over seven billion. How do we justify or account for the excess stock produced?

We start by conceptualising nature’s circular eco-process and adapting a sustainable mode of action to close the loop – circular product design. Textiles towards net-zero emissions from production and waste is an achievable goal.

As witnessed at The Australian Circular Fashion Conference’s (ACFC), of the 700 participants, it is evident the fashion and textile industries cannot be relied upon to tackle long-term circularity single-handedly. All stakeholders and collaborators are critical to progress.

Towards net-zero.

Defining net-zero emissions, to eliminate all carbon emissions or offset emissions by tree planting or other clean energy programmes. 

ACTA recently published ‘Investment required for circular business models in textile recycling’ explaining how local businesses are developing profitable solutions for the sake of positive environmental impact. BlockTexx is a prime example of innovative, lean startups tackling global issues. Blocktexx understands the bigger picture as textiles play a massive role in carbon emissions and carbon abatement. Co-Founders Graham Ross and Adrian Jones combined their respective knowledge of the fashion industry and technology to form Australia’s first textile recycling company.

Textile researcher Sandra Roos shared on the Fact Or Fiction podcast about the lack of transparency and accuracy regarding textile’s carbon footprint. 

Though an undeniable challenge, tracking textiles footprint nationally is often inaccurately quantified because textiles are derived from various industry sources; for instance banners/flags, uniforms, mattresses, furniture, linen – not just fashion. As emphasised by Ms Roos, there is a great need for more research. But also for more explanation and clarity around any and all textile origin to be the norm. This will help inform tackling the emissions problem.

Sphere of influence.

Media and government have a role to play. Unfortunately, the average person may not comprehend the severity in tossing out an old scarf. But the media and government have the power to educate. 

Current greenhouse gas emissions from textile production stands at 1.2 billion tonnes annually. ACTA is working with NSW government bodies to positively influence the community. With strong influential powers we redirect our energy by creating new recycling habits across the community. 

For instance, the NSW Government has a net-zero plan, over the next ten years they will “empower consumers and businesses to make sustainable choices.” However, net-zero is a national problem. It’s too easy to abuse general waste (out of sight, out of mind). 

As part of ACTA’s mission, we also wish to see demonstrative and large-scale policy changes to reduce the presence of textiles in landfill and improve recycling opportunities for materials.

Empowerment is a subtle but critical factor in recruiting community effort. Influential media personnel are in the right position to empower consumers, rather than encourage impulsive behaviours to consume fleeting trends. Informative lifestyle news like ‘Guilt-free fashion: A beginner’s guide to ethical style‘ from ABC Life or ‘Why this Sydney bride cut up her designer wedding gown’ from 9Honey aid normalising conscious and sustainable fashion habits. 

Textiles are ubiquitous and essential in every aspect of modern society and change is required sooner rather than later. Our everyday essentials don’t have to contribute to climate change.


Author ACTA intern Isabella Krebet (RMIT Journalism Student)