Textiles in turmoil – Forest becomes fashion

The forest industry plays an active role in the sustainable future of fibres. Many new innovations are surging, being currently in early commercialisation phase. Cellulose-based fibres can bring new high-value added production to the pulp industry and materials such as lyocell will drive the conversion of paper pulp to dissolving pulp.

Call for change

The pandemic has cancelled fashion shows and fairs, and lockdowns have caused people to see a lesser need to supplement their stay-at-home wardrobes. An overall uncertainty has dragged a sector reliant on consumer confidence to an extended hibernation. The textile industry comprises non-essential goods, but while the apparel does not go bad, it goes off, causing entire seasons of clothing left unsold. While matching supply and demand during a pandemic is difficult for all sectors, the imbalances in the textile industry have accented long prevailing problems of waste accumulation and an urgent need for reform.

Today, the fashion industry is responsible for a tenth of global carbon emissions and a fifth of global wastewater discharge. Nearly 90% of the fibre input sees incineration or disposal as their end-of-life solution. Polyester and other oil-derived materials comprise 65% of the textile fibre demand and cause major waste problems, including the release of microplastics. Cotton, comprising some 25% of the textile fibre demand, needs significant amounts of water and land, hence competing with food crops.

Focus on fibre and circularity

Regulatory action has started to target these problems. By 2025 all EU member states are required to separately collect textile waste. New bills targeting manufacturers to take responsibility for collection and recycling of their plastic waste could also encompass producers of synthetic microfibre textiles.

Additionally, actions to drive change are needed both from end-consumers and producers. Firstly, altered consumer behaviour, including increased reusing, recycling, and repurposing of textiles is crucial. This needs incentives and facilitation throughout the value chain from fibre suppliers and brand-owners to governments and regulators. Secondly, changes to fibre materials with a focus on recyclability and the environmental impact during production is needed. This implies increasingly favouring monomaterials and technological development in making textile recycling more widely available and financially competitive.

And meanwhile forest becomes fashion, perhaps the post-pandemic runway will be greener than before.

Vision Hunters provides strategic advisory services for the forest industry and energy sectors. We assist leadership teams in making the smartest strategic choices to improve the outcome of their company in the future. We are highly experienced and result oriented and have advised many of the leading companies in our industry.