The fashion industry fuels a linear economy with waste greater than $460B of value each year through unsustainable disposal of clothing (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017). Characterized as one of the most polluting and wasteful industries, it consumes 98 million tonnes in non-renewable resources, 93 billion cubic metres of water, and 53 metric tons of fibre to produce clothes used for a short time, after which 13% of the total material input is recycled and 73% of the materials are sent to a grave via landfill or incineration (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017). One estimate suggests that as global population grows to 16% by 2030, the mass-consumption of clothing will grow 65% as 3 billion people move into the middle class (Rosa, 2016).
Reimagining the current take-make-dispose linear process, a circular economy (CE) model demonstrates an opportunity to prevent value leakage by decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, including shrinking or decreasing use, slowing, and closing material loops as depicted in Figure 1 (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2015). This analysis will explore circular approaches that collectively address system-level waste in the textile and clothing system, and the effectiveness of each approach in the acquisition of materials, production of goods, consumption, and disposal.