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Stella McCartney and Ellen Macarthur team up to tackle waste in fashion

Lauretta Roberts
28 November 2017

Fashion designer Stella McCartney has teamed up with Dame Ellen Macarthur to launch Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s new report A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashion's future and the pair have called upon the fashion industry to work together to reduce waste and clean up its act.

The report is based on the Circular Fibres Initiative, which was launched earlier this year, and which brings together industry leaders and other key stakeholders to collaborate and innovate towards a new textiles economy, based on the principles of a circular economy.

Fashion's "take, make, dispose" model is, the report argues, "the root cause of many environmental impacts and substantial economic value loss". The report claims that every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned. That equates to an estimated $500bn in value being lost every year due to clothing that’s barely worn and rarely recycled.

"If nothing changes, by 2050 the fashion industry will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget. As well as being wasteful, the industry is polluting: clothes release half a million tonnes of microfibres into the ocean every year, equivalent to more than 50bn plastic bottles. Microfibres are likely impossible to clean up and can enter food chains," a statement on the report said.

The report aims to present "a positive new vision for a system that works". In the new textiles economy clothes would be designed to last longer, be worn more and be easily rented or resold and recycled, and would not release toxins or pollution. New materials and business models are required, which harness the power of design, and find ways to scale better technologies and solutions.

"Today’s textile industry is built on an outdated linear, take-make-dispose model and is hugely wasteful and polluting. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s report A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashion’s future presents an ambitious vision of a new system, based on circular economy principles, that offers benefits to the economy, society, and the environment. We need the whole industry to rally behind it," Macarthur said.

"What really excites me about A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashion’s future is that it provides solutions to an industry that is incredibly wasteful and harmful to the environment. The report presents a roadmap for us to create better businesses and a better environment. It opens up the conversation that will allow us to find a way to work together to better our industry, for the future of fashion and for the future of the planet," added McCartney, who will receive a special recognition award at the British Fashion Council's Fashion Awards next week in recognition of her innovation and commitment the fields of sustainability and ethics.

Industry leaders including Core Partners H&M, Lenzing, and Nike, and C&A Foundation as Philanthropic Funder, endorse the new vision and report, to which they and over 40 influential fashion brands, leading businesses, NGOs, public bodies, and experts have contributed. McKinsey & Company has also contributed research and analysis.

Macarthur and McCartney are now calling for the entire industry to get behind the report.

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