fashion creates more greenhouse pollution than the airline industry

The plastic from our clothes is also causing more damage to the ocean than cosmetics.

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Dec 4 2017, 1:21am

An Australian landfill site, via Wikicommons.

A sobering new report has revealed the true scale of fashion's impact on the environment. The MacArthur’s foundation report, A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future, paints a deeply worrying picture of the textile industry today; predicting the situation will dramatically worsen by 2050 if changes aren't made.

At present, the report estimates the business of fashion is creating 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse emissions every year: more than international flights and shipping put together. The fashion industry doesn't fare well when compared to the cosmetics industry either, with half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres from clothing making their way into the ocean each year. That's 16 times more than the plastic microbeads in skincare products are contributing. There's growing evidence the small plastic particles are contaminating fish with toxic chemicals.

Elsewhere in the report, it's suggested that if nothing changes the fashion industry will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050.

“The textiles industry relies mostly on non-renewable resources...including oil to produce synthetic fibres, fertilisers to grow cotton, and chemicals to produce, dye, and finish fibres and textiles," writes Ellen MacArthur, head of the foundation behind the report. "The current wasteful, linear system is the root cause of this massive and ever expanding pressure on resources."

The solution? Competing brands and factories need to work together like never before. "Efforts are already being employed by brands, retailers, and other organisations to change the industry," MacArthur explains, "and although promising progress is being made, it is often too fragmented or only effective at a small scale...a new textiles economy will demand unprecedented levels of alignment on the case for change, and collaboration. "

Stella McCartney, who has partnered with MacArthur to turn the industry's attention towards the report, remains hopeful. In a statement to the press, the designer says the findings could "allow us to find a way to work together to better our industry, for the future of fashion and for the future of the planet ." Here's to that. Read the full report here.