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- Caitlyn Bull

The UN describes sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs''. Unfortunately the textile industry as it stands is compromising that ideal. The textile and apparel industry is the second largest industrial polluter, accounting for 10% of global carbon emissions. The industry also accounts for incredible amounts of waste leading to 85% of textiles being sent to landfills each year. To read more about impacts of textile waste visit our past blog the Unseen Harms of Textile Waste.

Further, the rise in fast fashion has led to increased fabric and garment production, intensifying the pressure placed upon textile and garment workers. Many workers are not provided adequate, and safe workplaces leading to disastrous human rights violations such as the Rana Plaza Collapse in 2013 which launched sustainability into the forefront of the fashion industry. Especially during the COVID period, factory workers are seen to be the most vulnerable ones as brands are not paying the factories for the finished goods, leading to factory workers not being paid for their labour. The increased call for sustainability and transparency in the supply chain in response to these violations has exposed many brands for a lack of sustainability and labor rights issues. According to a report by Fashion Revolution only 1 out of 62 brands they studied disclosed their entire global supply chain. Transparency in the supply chain is necessary to ensure sustainability and ethical management as well as letting consumers know they can trust a brand. Creating trust and building brands that align with consumer values is essential since according to a 2018 survey, 52% of millennials and 48% of Gen Xers feel that it is important for their values to align with the brands they like. With the growing trend in sustainable and ethical practices, if a brand is transparent and has an environmentally-friendly supply chain it can have an overall benefit to their business performance.

Good On You breaks down the supply chain into 5 main stages, design, material production, garment production, distribution and retail, and lastly the consumer stage. In the design process, brands must intentionally plan to be more sustainable by considering the rest of the supply chain; where to source their materials, who's going to make it, what does the end of life look like and can it be a closed loop? Applying sustainable design features to the supply chain can play a huge role in reducing the environmental burden of the textile industry. There are a number of innovative ideas that address sustainability at each stage and help to make the transition easier on brands.

Zero waste design for example can cut back on the amount of waste created, and subsequently reduce the environmental harm as well. In the textile industry, zero waste thinking is often implemented to figure out ways to cut fabrics and reduce textile scraps, which is important, however the theory should be applied to the whole supply chain as well. Being zero waste goes hand in hand with the introduction of a circular economy. Designing for a closed loop addresses the end of life of a garment (which is often when environmental determinants occur). Instead of allowing garments to fill up landfills, or textile waste water to run off into water bodies, a circular economy would introduce that waste back into production. At PHOENXT we are committed to achieving a circular economy, and close the loop between textile-textile recycling.

The EPA estimates that by diverting all trashed textiles into a recycling program, it would be the environmental equivalent of taking 7.3 million cars and their CO2 emissions off the road. Finding and partnering with companies like PHOENXT that help to achieve a circular economy and address the end of life of a garment offers brands an easy way to implement sustainability into their supply chain. Overall, executing sustainable practices at every step in the supply chain reduces the environmental impact of the textile industry while simultaneously building a better relationship with the growing number of consumers who place sustainability at the forefront.

Let's hear what our Founder and main team have to say about PHOENXT.

- Caitlyn Bull

Water is one of the most valuable and necessary commodities in the world, and yet, the global water supply is constantly threatened. The textile industry specifically is one of the leading water consumers and contributors to water pollution. From growing the raw material, to dyeing, and rinsing, water is used in almost every step of the textile production process. In 2015 for example, the fashion industry consumed an estimated 79 billion cubic meters of water. The fashion industry also accounts for an estimated 20% of the global water pollution. It is for these reasons that the fashion industry must explore creative solutions to reducing textile water waste and use in order to realize a fully circular economy. AT PHOENXT for example we continue our commitment to a circular economy by employing a closed water loop which simultaneously addresses both issues of use and waste.

We must first confront the concern at its source by addressing the fashion industry’s contribution to water pollution. The World Bank has identified 72 toxic chemicals that stem solely from textile dyeing. The dye often ends up washed into water bodies, creating a thin layer of discharged dyes over the surface of the water and severely degrading the aquatic ecosystem and our water supply in the process. The chemicals and heavy metals from the textile waste water can also be linked to various cancers, illness and skin problems. This water pollution not only severely impacts our global water supply but also the communities that rely on water bodies to live as well. In China, a leading location of textile production, the World Bank estimates 90% of local groundwater is contaminated, rendering it useless for washing, fishing, and farming. Using more natural, chemical-free, dyes and textile treatments in the production cycle can help remedy this problem. In addition specific regulations are necessary to ensure textile waste water cannot runoff into water bodies. Instead, textile industries must treat their waste water in order to reuse it later in the production cycle.

While it may seem simple, in order to reuse textile water waste it must first be cleaned from fat, oil, phosphates, pesticides, dyes, and other chemicals, all of which are used during several production steps. This process can be difficult and lengthy, which is why many industries continue to linearly utilize their water supply. That said, cleaning and reusing the water supply is a necessary step for the protection of both human and environmental health.

Electrocoagulation is an emerging solution to the growing water waste dilemma. This method employs a combination of conventional coagulation, flotation and electrochemistry in order to separate the color, dyes, and toxic chemicals from the water. Electrocoagulation is a relatively cost-efficient, sustainable, and successful solution to remove waste from the water supply.

Further, extending the life-span of garments can hugely impact the fashion industry’s usage of water. According to a 2017 report, continuing to actively wear a garment for just nine months longer could diminish its carbon, water, and waste by 20–30%. The fast fashion industry and the growing demand for clothing challenges that solution. Through PHOENXT’s separation technology 22.2 million tonnes of waste polyester can be potentially saved, diminishing the impact of rampant garment discard. Garments that would otherwise be discarded are extended. We are able to create new materials from the existing textile waste without extracting any more natural resources and exacerbating the environmental impact of the textile industry.

The solution to the growing water waste problem is clear. The textile industry as a whole must include water reuse into our imagination of a circular economy and implement more sustainable alternatives to how we consume and treat our water supply.

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