Fast Fashion Has a Big Carbon Footprint – the Circular Economy of Textiles is the Future!

We spoke about “järkivihreys” (an environmentally friendly approach to develop company and community activities) in the Forssa region long before stopping climate change and saving natural resources became everyone’s business. Environmental friendliness is practical in Forssa. It is based on new industrial innovations in the circular economy – the recycling of materials and clean solutions that can improve the state of the environment. We understand that resource efficiency is also economically smart.

A city that is resource-wise and creates sustainable well-being is built on three goals: no overconsumption, no waste and no climate emissions. This is what we have chosen to work on!

There is one interesting yet rather unexplored area in the circular economy; textiles. It was precisely the textile industry that made Forssa an important city in Finland as early as in 1847. The textile industry was an important trade for Forssa as well as for Finland from the 19th century until the end of the 20th century. As low-cost imports increased, and the labor-intensive textile industry was moved to countries with lower labor costs, the sector withered almost completely in Finland.

Just when we thought that the textile industry had died in Finland, the industry is abundant in interesting new stories. Great new startups and advanced circular economy expertise have been generated in the Finnish textile industry.

Fast fashion has a big carbon footprint. The textile industry creates more emissions than the airline industry and the shipping industry combined. The number of times garments are used is shamefully small. Finland generates an estimate of 70-100 million kilos of textile waste in one year. Fast fashion and textile waste are global problems. The growth of environmental awareness is challenging the textile industry to innovate new ways to operate.

The textile industry alone cannot be blamed for the situation. Consumers make solutions. This is why everyone should be advised to only buy a garment if they can imagine wearing it at least 300 times! The fashion industry’s CO2 emissions would be reduced by more than 40 percent if people used their clothes twice as long as they are used now.

There is a great demand for responsible and innovative Finnish textile know-how now and in the future. The circular economy of textiles creates new opportunities. The EU requires separate collection of textiles in Finland starting in 2025. It is a desirable step, but it is only the beginning. The question is; where do we find more end users for recycled material? Currently, an estimate of 80 percent of old textiles go to incineration.

New innovations in the textile industry are being unravelled in Finland. They offer tremendous opportunities to produce more ecological textile fibers and to recycle textiles. How does a fabric that has been made out of cotton-based textile waste sound like? Or a fabric that is 100% recycled and made out of textiles that are used up and discarded by consumers? The Finnish wood-based fabric, that has been produced from paper pulp without dissolving or harmful chemicals, is looking for its equal.

Some of the biggest fashion houses are increasingly investing in the development of durable materials and in the recycling of waste textiles. There are clothing loan shops in Finland already, and the classic Finnish brand Reima is testing selling kids’ overalls as a service for a monthly fee. The idea of ​​a communal wardrobe is not far-fetched. Hopefully these ideas intensify and inspire others too!

The entire chain of textile production needs to be made more sustainable. A roadmap for a carbon-neutral textile sector is currently being drawn up and will provide an excellent framework that will support decision-making. The textile industry is already innovating new business models, but the consumers’ shopping behaviour plays an important role in whether these models become game changers. A lot of opportunities can be found in the Finnish textile industry. As a pioneer in the circular economy, Forssa can make a comeback!

Author

Sanni Grahn-Laasonen
Member of the Finnish Parliament

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