A new report today calls for radical change in the textile industry, including garment decorating, setting out practices for improving sustainability to reduce damage to the planet.

It calls for producers and decorators to seek ways to manufacture more locally, take responsibility for the entire life cycle of a product, design products with recyclability and remove obstacles relating to recyclable textiles.

The report, Circular Textiles for a Sustainable Future, has been published today by PCIAW, the trade body for the clothing supply chain, and Business in the Community (BITC). It serves as a guide for the government-backed Textiles 2030 initiative, which aims to massively cut textile waste.

The report looks at the environmental implications of current textile wastage, alongside ongoing research and cutting-edge practices that should lead to an increase in corporate environmental responsibility in future years.

It aims to educate manufacturers, suppliers, decorators, buyers and designers in the principles and practices of “circularity” in textiles for workwear, including PPE and corporatewear. It details best practice in the disposal of textiles and looks at how circularity can be designed into the whole process of making, using and re-using textiles.

It highlights how the textiles industry is the second biggest polluter globally, after aviation. Textiles account for 10% of global carbon emissions and 20% of global industrial wastewater pollution. At present, less than 1% of material used in the production of clothing is recycled into new clothing at its end-of-life stage.

PCIAW points out how the huge demand for cheap clothing and “fast fashion” has led to a “race to the bottom” in terms of unethical and unsafe working practices globally. Moreover, most fast-fashion textiles are not fully recyclable so a move from retailers for zero tolerance on poor practices would help avoid a lack of transparency in the global supply chain which masks the problem of forced labour, human rights abuses and lack of re-usability.

The report says that the textile industry must prioritise resource efficiency, end-of-life recyclability and sustainable development from renewable natural materials, calling for “immediate action” to reduce further damage to the planet.

It stresses that, while there are short term-costs involved in making these changes, the long-term gains would be invaluable. The report states that there is a growing culture of demand for better-quality, more durable clothing.

To achieve these aims, the report points to several practices and initiatives:

• Manufacturing locally would reduce waste and stimulate local economies that have been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. At present many textiles are made in one country and exported thousands of miles away, using valuable resources.

• Producers must engage in extended producer responsibility (EPR). This means taking responsibility for the entire life cycle of a product, including collection, dismantling, recycling and reusing. It begins with the sourcing of raw materials and includes reducing the carbon impact of the supply chain and distribution network, plus the disposal of garments to prevent them from piling up in landfills.

• Designers of the future must incorporate strategies for recyclability and end-of-life procedures to fulfil textile circularity. There is a growing cultural shift towards these principles and PCIAW is collaborating with several companies making eco-conscious professional wear. Many of these companies are also researching better ways to recycle and reuse textiles through new mechanical and chemical processes.

• Remove obstacles relating to recyclable textiles for buyers, suppliers, decorators and manufacturers who are looking to implement these into their supply chain. This would help the industry take a step closer to realising a circular economy.

Yvette Ashby, CEO of PCIAW, said: “We are proud to share this extensive first-of-its-kind report which educates the industry on the current and emerging textile recycling technologies, complete with case studies from world-leading professional clothing companies and universities.

“We hope that the textiles industry takes the necessary steps to accelerate a circular textile economy once and for all.”

Along with BITC, PCIAW is collaborating with Textiles 2030: Sustainable Textiles Action Plan from WRAP to implement an impactful and collaborative climate action plan for diverse textile companies in the UK.

Leading industry organisations and companies helped in the production of the report including Teesside University, University of Leeds, University of Basel, Lenzing Fibres, Project Plan B, Stuff4Life, DenimX, Worn Again Technologies, Decontex, APT Fabrics, Avena, wear2wear, Sympatex Technologies, Invista Cordura Brand, WL Gore & Associates and Plimsoll.

The report cover features a striking artwork by Benjamin Von Wong of a mermaid washed up from a sea of plastic.

For the full report, visit pciaw.org.