Repair as a best-practice in reducing pre-consumer industrial fashion waste
The global textile industry, driven by various sectors, is currently the largest it has ever been, with the apparel industry alone valued at $1.8 trillion.The apparel industry produces a staggering 150 billion garments annually, contributing to a fashion waste crisis that generates 92 million tons of waste each year.
When discussing the issue of textile waste, the conversation often centers around fast fashion and the disposal of clothes at the end of their life, termed post-consumer waste, which poses a substantial challenge, especially in the global north. However, there's a significant but overlooked issue a few steps earlier in the manufacturing process known as pre-consumer waste. This encompasses all waste materials generated in the supply chain during the manufacturing of a product, an aspect that has not received adequate attention from both brands and policymakers.
it's estimated that up to 47% of all fiber entering the fashion value chain becomes waste across various stages of production, from fiber and yarn to fabric and the final garment and this has not got the attention of brands nor policy makers. Unlike post-consumer waste or end-of-life waste, pre-consumer waste holds a greater potential for recovery and diversion from landfills or incinerators as the fabric or the garment is essentially brand new, despite one or more repairable defects.
Garment repair is a promising circular business model for reducing pre-consumer industrial waste by repairing and restoring damages found in the textile manufacturing process. Repairing extends the life of a garment, preventing it from becoming waste and reducing the demand for new resources.
Furthermore, research indicates that 72% of fashion industry emissions stems from upstream activities before the garments are exported, and out of which, 90% of that emission happen even before the fabric is laid on the cutting table. Finished textile and garments that have been produced but cannot be exported due to some defect, the creative, physical, financial, and especially the natural resources invested in them are lost. By delving into the roots of pre-consumer waste, it becomes clear that optimizing supply chain processes and ensuring tried and tested circular business model such as repairing is not only critical for business performance, but also plays a crucial role in combating climate change.
According to the waste hierarchy, garment repair holds a higher value even more than recycling as the damaged garment is transformed to a wearable export quality garment at its highest value.
Repairing a new garment is far easier than repairing a used, worn-out garment. As per calculations published by research organizations, repairing one garment can conserve approximately 10-20 kgs of CO2, 2,000 litres of water, 30Kw of electricity and 10 kgs of waste.
Repairing a garment can often be done quickly and inexpensively, and it has many benefits to the manufactures and brands. Each garment you repair and export, fetch you export value instead of scrap value and eliminates the added cost burden of having to discard that item. Also, manufacturers do not need to reproduce the shortfall to fulfil the customer order quantity which takes up lot of time and effort whilst disrupting the entire flow of production and incur possible airfreight and chargebacks. Furthermore, once manufacturers are confident of repair capabilities, having to use special markers to cut around defective fabric diminishes, thereby further reducing cutting wastage which is a key component of pre-consumer fashion waste.