Image courtesy of Greenpeace

Kirsten Brodde: “Recycling alone won’t save the planet”

Greenpeace's Kirsten Brodde raises a pressing question: Is all this talk of circularity a well-marketed excuse to ease consumers' minds before buying something new, instead of a real solution?
There is no doubt that more recycling alone won't save the planet–we have to slow down and make fashion's core business more sustainable. Here, Kirsten Brodde share her thoughts on the way forward.

“Since 2011, Greenpeace’s Detox my Fashion-campaign has secured 78 global commitments from well-known brands, retailers and suppliers to ban all hazardous chemicals from their supply chain until 2020. This shift towards taking responsibility for their production was a major paradigm shift for the fashion industry. This is good news for the world’s water ways and oceans, which in countries like China, Bangladesh and India are polluted by hundreds of toxic chemicals throughout the process of garment production, threatening precious drinking water resources. So yes, we have successfully achieved the elimination of many hazardous chemicals.

However, the whole sector is perfectly aware of the huge volumes of material which are wasted on our current throw-away fashion system. A business model based on such high volume and speedy turnover, combined with the unsustainable marketing of “Fast Fashion” micro trends, can never be sustainable; no matter how many chemicals get eliminated. This is why we at Greenpeace now participate in the buzzing debate on circularity and closing the loop: Yes, collection, reuse and as a last step recycling are definitely required. But industry experts state that it will probably take decades before we can fully recycle more than an insubstantial fraction of our rising textile waste! And every attempt of textile recycling also requires resources, often more chemicals and definitely energy. Big industry talk of circularity is right now a well marketed excuse to ease consumers’ minds before buying something new; rather than a real solution.


« A business model based on high volume and speedy turnover, combined with the unsustainable marketing of "Fast Fashion" micro trends, can never be sustainable »

As of today, the only solution we have is to buy and sell less new clothes, and to slow down the current overproduction by reintroducing a culture of repairing, lending, swapping and second hand in between new investments to protect value over time.

For fashion businesses, this culture requires reinventing their business models by focusing on durable and long-lasting clothes, moving to services like repairing or lending and spreading the correlating values in society. There is a chance for fashion labels and designers here: Not only are consumers steadily moving towards expecting sustainability, they are also seeking deeper connections. Centuries ago, people would have known the precise history and origin of nearly everything they owned and value what they have. We need to redevelop this awareness and connection to the producers of our clothes, as well as to the clothes we wear.

Greenpeace has already started working on this new angle, with very positive response from consumers, alternative fashion biz and concerned policy-makers. We want to encourage all fashion makers to develop forward-thinking business models that are in line with our planetary boundaries and sustainable development goals. We strive for a future fashion system, that while it is still serving us to look great, is radically changed and geared towards qualitative improvement in harmony with people and planet.”

Kirsten Brodde leads the Detox My Fashion Campaign at Greenpeace. Follow her here.
Check out Detox Catwalk 2016 to see which brands are the path to toxic-free fashion. 

Benetton is one of three companies (together with Inditex and H&M Group) scoring high in Greenpeace's Detox My Fashion campaign, which specifically looks at hazardous chemicals.

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