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Pollution, carbon emissions, and climate change are some of the greatest threats facing the planet and our livelihoods. The industrial nature of the fashion industry is a major culprit of environmental harm. The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions with the World Bank estimating that fashion industry greenhouse gas emissions will surge to more than 50% by 2030. Fast Fashion and industrialization has spawned a culture of rampant purchasing and subsequent disposal of garments creating a waste problem, harming the health of the environment, ecosystems, and humans.

The average consumer throws away approximately 70 pounds of shoes and clothing per year. The current solution for discarded textile waste is to either recycle the materials or to send them to landfills and incinerators. Despite the fact that nearly 95% of textile waste is reusable or recyclable, only 12% of the global material used to produce clothing ends up being recycled. Instead, an estimated 84% of clothing ends up in landfills and incinerators, where it breaks down, emitting greenhouse gases, and releasing chemicals into the ground and atmosphere, which can take between 20 to 200 years to decompose. During decomposition the 8,000 different synthetic chemicals used in fashion manufacturing, leach into the ground, soil and runoff into the water sources. Furthermore, when clothing gets incinerated, it releases carbon dioxide, methane, greenhouse gases, toxins and chemicals all of which are vented directly into the atmosphere, contributing to the growing climate crisis.

Reducing the amount of chemicals used in the production process is a start to addressing the adverse health effects contributed by the textile industry. An estimated 43 million tons of chemicals are used in textile production every year. These chemicals pose a threat to our water systems, agriculture and to human health as well. Most of the chemicals are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors which lead to many harmful health conditions. The manufacturing of polyester, and other synthetic fabrics for example, release emissions including volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and acid gases such as hydrogen chloride, all of which can cause or aggravate respiratory disease. The health of humans and our environment is at imminent risk if the fashion industry continues its unbridled usage of chemicals. In the meantime, recycling garments can help to diminish the impact these chemicals can have and limit the amount of chemicals that enter the environment via disposal methods. Further, the amount of washing and separation involved in recycling textiles reduces the amount of chemicals on the fabrics as well. More importantly, instead of having textile waste creating greenhouse gases in the landfill process, recycling textiles can create an opportunity to reduce our CO2 production by turning them back into a raw material.

Recycling fabric, however, can be complicated. Many fabrics are made of blended fibres, making it much more difficult to separate in the recycling process. This difficulty is resolved by PHOENXT. Through PHOENXT’s groundbreaking separation technology blended fabrics are able to be separated in reusable fibres, solving a major problem in recycled fabric production.

Regenerative soil practices can also help to address some of the environmental degradation and health impacts the textile industry can cause as well. These practices source sustainable materials and put sustainable farming practices at the forefront. The benefits of regenerative soil practices include avoiding fertilizers and pesticides that run off into water sources, composting, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Check out our past blog “Regenerative Fashion: Sustainable Clothes Revolution?” to learn more!

The current method to deal with textile waste is putting the health of humans at risk by threatening nearby ecosystems, water sources, contaminating soil that could be used for agricultural purposes and contributing to global warming. Recycling textiles in a closed loop production system poses a sustainable solution to the issues caused by current textile waste disposal.

- Credit to Leah Traill

February is upon us, and with it the “Big Four” Winter/Fall Fashion Weeks: New York, Milan, London and Paris. Last year, Fashion Week changed drastically, with cancellations, digital collections and restricted physical events. That being said, Fashion Week has always been changing. One aspect in particular has been gradually yet persistently growing: the sustainable fashion scene.

Sustainable fashion has been around for a long time - in 2004 the Ethical Fashion Show was held for the first time in disused warehouses, mostly consisting of Bohemian styles. However, sustainable fashion struggled to gain traction in the broader fashion world until the early 2010’s. This was partly driven by Messe Frankfurt, the world’s largest trade show organiser, who procured the Ethical Fashion Show and Greenshowroom and began to demonstrate to a global audience that casual, active and luxury fashion could be sustainable.

Since then, sustainability has become established in the world of fashion.

In 2017, Milan Fashion Week launched the Green Carpet Fashion Awards, to celebrate the best in sustainable fashion. That same year, Helsinki Fashion Week became known as the world’s first sustainable fashion week, where all participants must adhere to sustainable production.

Fast forward to 2019, where an avalanche of designers and brands announced commitments and green progress during Fashion Week. This includes Kering, the luxury brand company that owns Gucci, who promised to become carbon neutral across its entire supply chain and the British Fashion Council launching the Institute of Positive Fashion to gather resources and campaign for fashion sustainability.

A number of these commitments focus on swapping to eco-friendly materials. There has been a trend towards sustainably sourced fabrics, as indicated by the market share of certified cotton increasing from 5% of global cotton production in 2013 to 25% in 2019. Likewise, the market share of recycled polyester has also increased from 9% of global polyester production in 2009 to 14% in 2019.

This trend is a good start, but not enough to fight growing pollution and climate change. We need to accelerate this movement, and fashion week has the power to do so - as styles are inevitably replicated and reproduced. Phoenxt hopes to be part of this movement by providing innovative technology that turns waste fabrics into new fabrics. We must all work together to encourage sustainability in fashion for a better and brighter future.

- Credit to Leah Traill

Covid-19 has had a tremendous impact on the world, one which is likely to drive permanent change. The fashion industry is no exception: the demand for fashion is expected to decrease this year. This presents a unique opportunity to change the industry for the better. That’s where regenerative fashion comes in: a sustainable fashion revolution that is currently rising in popularity. But what exactly is it?

Regenerative fashion is about sourcing sustainable natural fibres, such as cotton and wool, grown using a regenerative agriculture approach. This approach focuses on sustainable farming practices - by avoiding harmful fertilizer and pesticides, and instead composting and cultivating a variety of plants.

In doing so, carbon dioxide is drawn out of the atmosphere and biodiversity is improved. Regenerative practices have also been found to benefit farmers, by decreasing water usage and increasing profits.

Clothes made from crops or animals are also biodegradable, meaning at the end of their life they can be composted and hence contribute to the growth of new life.

Regenerative fashion is clearly a game changer, however the fashion industry is still far from being sustainable. The focus of regenerative fashion is naturally grown materials, however 60% of textiles are made from fossil fuel-based synthetic fibres. As the world commits to net-zero emissions (more than 110 countries to date), we will need to move towards other sources. And while regenerative agriculture is one such source, it leaves the question - what do we do with all the synthetic clothes already in circulation?

Another solution then, is to recycle clothes - i.e. extract their fibres to use once again in new textiles. But sadly, less than 1% of clothes are remade into new textiles. So, what makes recycling clothes so rare?

One major barrier to recycling is that our clothes are complex. Clothes are often made from a combination of fibres, fabrics and other materials. For example, clothes are commonly made from a mixed blend of polyester and cotton (even a ‘100% cotton T-shirt’ can contain polyester stitching). Cotton has absorbent properties that make it comfortable and easier to dye, while polyester has the durability that allows clothes to last longer - thus clothes are made from both materials to optimise both function and comfort.

This is where Phoenxt comes in - we are innovating new technology to concurrently recycle polyester and natural plant based fibres such as cotton, viscose, and hemp. This technology is solvent free and maintains the fibre quality, making it sustainable and environmentally friendly. Hence, we are also contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals, by reducing water pollution (goal 6) and waste via recycling (goal 12), while also committing to climate action by reducing CO2 emissions (goal 13).

Together with movements like regenerative fashion, we can create a sustainable world.

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