The circular economy is a relatively new concept.
Starting from the classic concept of the linear economy, which has significant environmental impacts by encouraging the waste of raw resources, it is a new concept that represents numerous ecological, social and economic advantages.
To understand the difference between the two concepts, we'll take the life cycle of a garment as an example.
The linear economy
The linear model can be summed up in a few words: extract, manufacture, consume and dispose.
The raw material is then used to manufacture textiles.
In a third stage, the resulting textiles are assembled into garments and then marketed, at which point the garments are purchased and used by customers.
Once the products have reached the end of their life, they are mostly discarded.
Throughout this process, energy is consumed, so this model implies that we consume natural resources (cotton) and energy to manufacture garments that will ultimately become waste.
The circular economy
The concept of the circular economy brings a very important nuance to the ecological and sustainable level.
Instead of throwing away our clothes, it's based on the principle of reintroducing materials into the cycle of production, distribution and use as many times as possible.
As we've mentioned in several previous articles, the fashion industry is one of the most harmful to the environment. It consumes a huge amount of raw materials (water, cotton and oil), pollutes a lot and generates a phenomenal amount of waste.
The circular economy therefore enables raw materials to be reused in a loop in order to reduce their ecological impact. It's all about reusing clothes when they reach the end of their life, and avoiding at all costs that they end up in the garbage. There are several ways of doing this.
Different ways of reusing clothes
The production of a garment is often the stage in the life cycle where the ecological footprint is the greatest. By producing a garment in an eco-responsible way, this impact is reduced at the base in several ways: raw materials, dyeing, extraction, transport... Every avenue to reduce impact is commendable. What's next?
For the consumer:
Once the garment has been purchased and worn, the various options available to the consumer are linked to extending its life. These include:
- Repair alterations
- Give a garment we no longer wear to the next person (Swap, directly to someone we know, a sales platform, through a thrift store or an organization we've carefully chosen).
- Transform our less appealing or faded clothes into brand-new garments or utilitarian objects (rags, upholstery, placemats, etc.).
- Find a recycler who can help you make a brand-new garment from your faded clothes.
For the industrial sector:
While the consumer has an important role to play, the industrial sector needs to develop further. The first step will be to think about eco-responsible garment design, which will ensure that reuse (extended producer responsibility) of the entire garment is possible.
It would also be very interesting to change legislation concerning the obligation to use only new materials for upholstery. Indeed, the phenomenal quantity of textiles ending up in the garbage could certainly be used for upholstery and even insulation.
It would also be interesting to see new defibration companies taking their place in our landscape. These are companies that shred clothing, taking it back to its fibrous state and re-purposing it to make new fabrics.
The advantage of the circular economy remains the complete utilization of the raw material through to its end-of-life. So we looked at post-consumer avenues.
However, the best sustainable approach is to reduce overall consumption. Put a stop to excessive consuming!
Ellen MacArthur foundation
Cover photo: Sarl Naitica
Linear economy photo: Le billet développement durable
Circular economy photo: Damaris Basile Judith in Wikipedia