top of page
(the)MAGAZINE logo.png
  • Instagram

JANUARY 12, 2024

When clothing is discarded rather than reused or recycled, substantial amounts of water, energy, and raw materials are wasted. Different types of textile waste, including pre-consumer waste, post-consumer waste, deadstock fabric, misprinted or overstocked items, end-of-life textiles, and overconsumption that ends up in the landfill, contribute to this environmental crisis. [10]



Pixabay Creative Commons

Global waste generation is anticipated to reach 3.4 billion tons annually, as reported by the World Bank in ‘What a Waste 2.0: A Global Snapshot of Solid Waste Management to 2050.’ [5]  The fashion industry stands out as a major contributor to this waste crisis, producing a staggering 92 million tons of textile waste annually. Textiles constitute at least 7% of the total global landfill space.[10] Additionally, the industry is responsible for 2 to 8 percent of worldwide carbon emissions. The primary sources of these emissions include water pumping for crop irrigation, oil-based pesticides, machinery used in harvesting, and transportation emissions.[14]


Plastic waste from textile production amounts to 42 million tons, making the textile industry the second-highest contributor after packaging. Alarmingly, textiles and fashion waste contribute to 9% of annual microplastic pollution in our oceans. Shockingly, 66% of discarded clothes and textiles end up in landfills, less than 15% are recycled, and 19% are incinerated.[10] 

The United States leads in private waste generation, producing 17 million tons of textile waste, according to the Global Waste Index and EPA data.[11]


To address the issue of plastic microfiber release, the primary solution is reducing dependence on synthetic materials, according to the UNEP and Ellen MacArthur Foundation.[15] 

This involves changing the way clothing is made and developing new materials. Additionally, technologies to capture unavoidable microfiber releases need to be increased in scale and efficiency.[3]


To globally reduce fashion industry waste and change manufacturing processes, technologies are being developed to enable material reuse and decrease the use of virgin materials. Manufacturers are incorporating waste considerations into product design, choosing environmentally friendly materials, and creating processes that use waste materials as inputs for other products.[5]


Textile waste has surged by 811% since 1960, escalating from 1.7 million tons in 1960 to over 16 million tons in 2015, according to EPA data.[6] The primary catalyst for this increase is the ‘Fast Fashion’ trend, characterized by the production of inexpensive, non-durable clothing to meet the demand for the latest fashion trends.[9]

To tackle the issue at its core, the United Nations Alliance on Sustainable Fashion was launched in March 2019, aiming to create a unified movement for a more sustainable fashion industry.[3] ‘Sustainable Fashion’ emerged as a response to the wasteful textile industry, adopting sustainability throughout its lifecycle to reduce environmental and biodiversity impacts. Brands are increasingly seeking ways to minimize their negative impact on the planet and society.[12]


In the pursuit of sustainable fashion and circularity, ‘circular business models’ have gained traction in the fashion industry, offering potential for greater revenue while reducing the volume of new clothing and accessories produced. Leading brands are adopting guidelines on garment durability, material health, recyclability, and traceability.[4]


Recognizing that the most effective way to limit the industry’s environmental impact is through absolute consumption reduction, five trends have emerged: digital product passports for transparency and circularity, recycling infrastructure to replace virgin materials, next-generation animal-free and compostable materials, circular business models, and the slow fashion movement, promoting more sustainable sourcing and production.[2]

Best Practices



One of the best practices is exemplified by thredUP, a managed marketplace for women’s and kids’ apparel. Sellers send in pre-loved clothes from any brand for free. These items undergo quality inspection, itemization, price analysis, storage, and listing for resale. Buyers can access high-quality, low-cost clothes from over 35,000 brands.[13]



Resortects has introduced dissolvable stitches that enhance clothing recycling. These threads, with varying melting points, can be dissolved in a commercial oven, making the disassembly process easier and more effective. This innovative solution allows for the dismantling of up to 500kg of garments simultaneously.[8]


Circular Business Models

Lizee has developed a data-driven Rental Management System (RMS) for managing the entire rental cycle through a single platform. This includes in-store and online rental handling, shipping, returns, refurbishing, and eventual reselling. The system’s flexibility allows clients to choose a circular business model that suits their product and customer base, such as subscription, one-off, or on-demand rental.[7]

Founder's Note: The original “Waste Not” is a Terreform Project by the late Michael Sorkin (architect, urbanist, critic, and educator), with whom I had the pleasure of collaborating for more than a decade. Didem Ozdemir is the project’s chief investigator.

“Waste Not” Sources 


[1] Birch, S. (2023, August 31). The History of Fast Fashion. The Ocean Generation. 


[2] Buckulcikova, D., Motta, D., Cornuz, A., Brasser, S. (2022). The future of fashion [White paper]. Robeco The Investment Engineers.


[3] Ellen MacArthur Foundation. (2017) A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashion’s future. Ellen MacArthur Foundation.


[4] Findon, R. (2021, June 22). How redesigning jeans could change the way we think about the fashion industry. Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 


[5] Kaza, S., Yao, L. C., Bhada-Tata, P., Van Woerden, F. (2018). What a Waste 2.0: A Global Snapshot of Solid Waste Management to 2050. Urban Development, © Washington, DC. World Bank. 


[6] Leonard, M. (2019, July 23). Textile waste has increased 811% since 1960. Supply Chain Dive.


[7] Lizee. (2021, November 23). Making circular business models more accessible to retailers and brands: Lizee. Lizee: Rental & Resale Solutions.


[8] Resortecs. (2021, June 23). Dissolvable stitches that improve clothing recycling: Resortecs. Resortecs. 

[9] Roadrunner (2021, January 8). The Environmental Crisis Caused by Textile Waste. Roadrunner.,ends%20up%20in%20landfills%20faster 


[10] Ruiz, A. (2023, April 11). 17 Most Worrying Textile Waste Statistics & Facts. The RoundUp.,Key%20Facts,waste%20in%20global%20landfill%20space


[11] Sensoneo. (2022). Global Waste Index 2022: These are the biggest waste producers in the world. Sensoneo. 


[12] Subhasis, R., Lipsa, N. (2023). Marketing Sustainable Fashion: Trends and Future Directions. Sustainability. 15. 6202. 10.3390/su15076202.


[13]  ThredUp. (2021, June 18). Keeping clothing in use to reduce waste: thredUP. ThredUp.


[14] UN Environment Programme. (2019, March 13). Fashion’s tiny hidden secret. UN Environment Programme. 


[15] UN Environment Programme. (2019, March 14). UN Alliance For Sustainable Fashion addresses damage of ‘fast fashion’. [Press release].

© Copyright 2024. All RIghts Reserved
bottom of page