An AUAS study says designers must consider how clothes can be recycled or re-used in order to cut waste

An AUAS study says designers must consider how clothes can be recycled or re-used in order to cut waste

Researchers at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) have called on fashion designers and apparel manufacturers to create more garments with end-of-life in mind, in order to cut levels of garment waste. 

The AUAS used findings from market research firm GFK which revealed the average Dutch wardrobe typically contains 173 items of clothing, of which at least 50 items have not been worn during the past year. Information from CSR Netherlands, Statistics Netherlands and the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management also showed the Dutch buy 46 new items of apparel and footwear annually, of which 40 items are thrown out. 

Six parties including Saxion, CSR Netherlands, Sympany, Circle Economy and Modint cooperated in a study with the AUAS, which analysed 200 kilos of clothing waste and a closer inspection of the wardrobes of 50 individuals, to determine levels of clothing waste across the country.

One of the findings of the report, titled 'Measuring the Dutch Clothing Mountain', was that of the 40 items thrown out by each person each year, only nine are suitable for re-use.

"The rest either no longer fulfils the quality requirements or ends up in the domestic waste," the report states.

Detailing recommendations, it adds that "a lot of work" is needed to remove buttons, zippers and linings to prepare clothing items for recycling.

"Awareness of the process of disassembly may contribute to better product design. Additionally, complex multi-fibre blends are a barrier for many existing and upcoming recycling technologies. Designing with end-of-life in mind should prioritise recyclable fabrics and fibres." 

Retailers were urged to do more to encourage the sale of second-hand clothing items to contribute to cutting garment waste levels. The report says incorporating take-back systems and second-hand sanctions within fashion retailer stores "may benefit the image of the brands in terms of durability and awareness of the company buyers and designers on critical points to improve product quality."

The report adds offering reused products "may provide an extra source of revenue and an additional group of potential clients arriving to shops."

It also calls for better communication with the public to raise awareness of "the destiny of textiles" once they are disposed of, revealing "more than half" of all post-consumer textiles are still jettisoned via general household waste.

"Public policy aimed at reducing the total clothing volumes could help to balance tensions between economic and environmental issues. Subsidies and other economic incentives supporting local reuse and recycling such as tax benefits for second-hand stores may increase the volume of post-consumer textiles reused locally and maintain or reduce resource use," the report continues.

It adds: "Public policy may help to counterbalance and compensate environmental issues in order to promote a prosperous apparel sector in a wider sense."