The project will encourage businesses to shift away from the current take, make and dispose model, which the EMF insists puts high demand on land, energy and other resources.

New Circular Fibres will bring together key industry stakeholders, such as H&M and Nike, to collectively define a vision for a new system that benefits businesses and citizens, and also phases out negative impacts such as waste and pollution.

Launching the initiative at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit this morning, Dame Ellen MacArthur said: “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.”

Circular Fibres

Textiles play an important role in the global economy, with sales of footwear and apparel amounting to more than £1.3trn last year. But a growing trend in consumerism has led to an inefficient waste and resource management system. In the US, for example, an estimated 85% of clothing waste ends up in landfill.

The Circular Fibres initiative will provide analysis of the textiles industry, in collaboration with consulting firm McKinsey & Co. The initiative’s first report, due for publication in autumn 2017, will look at what a new circular economy for textiles could look like, and lay out the steps needed to build it.

The programme is supported by a consortium of organisations including Fashion for Good, Cradle to Cradle and the Danish Fashion Institute. Backing has also been provided by EMF corporate partner H&M, which is already striving to improve the collection of unwanted textiles. Since H&M signed up to the global Garment Collecting initiative in 2013, the group has collected 39,000 tonnes of unwanted textiles.

In 2016, Nike became the latest major brand to join the EMF as a global partner. The announcement aimed to build on Nike’s closed-loop efforts, which have so far amounted to a 6% waste reduction saving in footwear apparel and equipment manufacturing. Since 2010, more than three billion plastic bottles have been diverted from landfills and converted into recycled polyester for Nike performance products.

The new initiative could unlock new revenue streams for British retailers. Research has established that clothing items totalling at £4.6bn across Britain remain unworn and retailers are slowly introducing new services aimed at promoting reuse amongst consumers.

George Ogleby

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