NATEX – Nature and Extent of Post-Consumer Textiles in Ireland
Funder: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Duration of Project: 2020 (6 months)
Lead on Project: The Clean Technology Centre (CTC) – Munster Technological University (MTU).
Other Partners: The Rediscovery Centre, Community Resource Network Ireland (CRNI), Irish Charity Shops Association (ICSA).
This study was commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency to provide information for national policy to address an identified knowledge gap in relation to textiles in Ireland. It set out the nature and extent of the consumption of new textiles and generation of post-consumer textiles in Ireland and included a review of the current systems for collecting textiles for reuse, recycling and disposal.
A McKinsey industry report noted that global clothing production has doubled between 2000 and 2014, while their utilisation rate (number of times worn) has decreased dramatically (36%). In Europe, textile consumption was significantly dampened by the last economic recession and only returned to pre-recession levels in 2018 and grew after that. According to the Ellen McArthur Foundation, if growth continues as expected, total clothing sales will reach 160 million tonnes per annum by 2050 – almost three times the current rate.
The term ‘fast fashion’ is used to describe the rapid changing of clothing lines and fashion trends, which promote increased consumption and reduce the life span of clothing. It is estimated that more than half of fast fashion produced is disposed of in less than a year. Furthermore, the textiles industry is predominantly reliant on non-renewable resources including oil to produce synthetic fibres, fertilisers to grow cotton, and chemicals to produce, dye, and finish fibres and textiles as well as significant water consumption.
Resource inputs, and the environmental and climate pressures from the textiles system occur in every phase of the fashion industry. An evaluation of supply chain pressures from an EU consumption perspective identifies clothing, footwear and household textiles as the fourth highest pressure category for use of primary raw materials and water (after food, housing and transport). It is rated second highest in relation to impact on land use and the fifth highest for greenhouse gas emissions.
Objectives of Project:
This project aimed to understand the consumption pattern of textiles in Ireland in terms of both original consumption as well as post-consumer fate, addressing the following areas:
- Current consumption of textiles
- Current nature and extent of post-consumer textiles
- Existing systems for the collection and management of post-consumer textiles
- Best practices in terms of collection, segregation and recycling
In addition to data gathering from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), PRODCOM and industry, semi-structured interviews were conducted with relevant stakeholders to the textile industry, both on the consumer side, and on the post-consumer and waste related side.
The study found, based on 2019 data, the net consumption of textiles in Ireland is 263,000 tonnes (i.e. imports plus production minus exports for the country) and per capita consumption of new textiles is estimated at 53 kg per person per year.
The total post-consumer textiles arising in Ireland were estimated to be 170,000 tonnes per year or 35 kg per person per year. The single largest source of post-consumer textiles was found to be the household bin (64,000 tonnes), followed by textile bank and other collections by commercial textile recyclers (40,000 tonnes) and textile bank and in-store collections by charity retailers (17,500 tonnes).
The project makes recommendations to improve separate collection of post-consumer textiles, to facilitate and encourage more reuse within Ireland, to foster more repair of textiles, and to take longer-term steps towards more sustainable consumption and use of textiles.
For the full project report please visit the EPA website here
Clean Technology Centre (CTC)
Community Resource Network Ireland (CRNI)
Irish Charity Shops Association