How Tech can Help Fashion Brands Reduce Waste

Fashion has long been among one of the more wasteful industries on the planet. A recent survey showed that the average American will toss out 81 pounds of clothing each year, which amounts to 26 billion pounds of textiles that end up in landfills. 

This alarming amount of waste is composed of not only final garments, but the excess waste of producing said garment. For instance, the fashion industry contributes to an exponential amount of water wastage. In fact, a UNECE report suggested that nearly 20% of all the water wasted globally was contributed by the fashion industry. 

Clearly, this is a serious matter, and fashion must clean up its act. But what can be done? Technology may have answers to some of the biggest problems. 

Getting rid of resource-intensive textiles:

FACT: 1 cotton shirt = 713 gallons of water. 

The water required to make one cotton shirt is equal to 2.5 years’ worth of drinking water for one person! 

The textile industry consumes approximately 26.4 trillion gallons of water and 98 million tons of oil per year. The oceans have become a dumping ground for nearly half a million tons of microfibers from clothing. To put things into perspective, one garbage truck worth of textiles is produced every second. To combat this, companies are rolling out far more sustainable alternatives. Ananas Anam, for instance, creates Pinatex, which is basically a leather textile made from pineapple leaves. 

We anticipate that more companies like this will continue to emerge over the coming years to further reduce waste.

Supporting farmers with regenerative farming: 

FACT: French luxury brand, Kering hopes to cut its environmental impact by 40% over the next 6 years, thanks to regenerative farming.

The planting of crops for clothing such as cotton has led to the degradation of soil and adverse loss of biodiversity. To rectify this, fashion brands are starting to embrace regenerative agriculture. This type of agriculture works to repair the health of the soil through natural practices such as composting. Kering has done an amazing job by partnering with the non-profit, the Savory Institute and are working on identifying and developing a network of regenerative farms. 

A shift to circular fashion: 

FACT: The fashion industry stands to gain approximately $560 billion from recycling clothes that are currently either underutilized or incinerated.

Would you believe us if we told you that by simply tweaking the model of fashion could cut CO2 emissions in half by 2030? This change can also reduce the consumption of agricultural water by 53% by 2050! This is a huge deal and is being spearheaded by technology. The idea behind this circular shift is to find a purpose for waste. New Zealand based company, Formary, for example, creates new textiles from fiber waste, and WoJo – wool with jute – is created from excess coffee sacks from Starbucks. 

A smarter factory floor: 

FACT: Sewbots can help lower emissions by around 10% by creating products closer to consumers and reducing material waste.

Automated processes and a localized supply chain mean faster turnover times with reduced shipping and transportation cost. Having a localized supply chain also reduces a brand’s carbon footprint, which can be incorporated into the brand’s story and mission statement. 

Sewbots and vacuum-powered robotic grips make sewing precise and fast. 3D-printing helps create prototypes and samples faster. Essentially, the entire production and manufacturing process is made more agile with technology.

Technology for transparency: 
FACT: A 2018 survey found that sustainability is likely to be a crucial buying factor for mass market apparel consumers by 2025. 

Over 65% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products and technology is paving the way to provide the much needed transparency.

Technologies, such as Blockchain and RFID, store information about garments throughout the supply chain, so brands and consumers can have full visibility. These examples reflect the extent of the movement sweeping through our industry. It’s clear that the present manufacturing and supply chain models in the fashion industry will likely have no place in the future due to their wasteful nature. 

With minor tweaks of implementing technology into the supply chain, the industry can and will create a new standard for the brands of tomorrow.


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