Fast Facts

In the US alone, clothing consumption has doubled to 14 million tonnes a year in under two decades1. Unfortunately, this also means that billions of used clothing are thrown away each year to make room for the new ones. Often, our first thought of recycling clothing is to donate to charities and foundations. However, only about 0.1 per cent of recycled clothing collected by charities and take-back programmes is used to make new textile fibres.2

Take a look at other staggering facts about the global textiles industry to understand the severity of the issue.

  • More than USD 500 billion of value is lost annually due to clothing underutilisation and the lack of recycling.3
  • 150 billion garments are produced each year, which amounts to approximately 20 items per person.4
  • Current production processes used to create new yarns pose a threat to the environment and require large volumes of water and toxic chemicals. Up to 2,700 litres of water can be used to produce one cotton T-shirt. An average of 23kg of greenhouse gases are generated to make 1kg of fabric.5
  • The fashion industry will use up more than 25 per cent of the world’s entire carbon budget by 2050.6
  • The total annual generation of textile waste in China is estimated to be more than 26 million tonnes.7 It is estimated China has accumulated nearly 100 million tonnes of textile waste, with less than one per cent reused.8
  • China’s potential textile waste market value may be as high as CNY60 billion.9
  • Less than one per cent of materials used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing, representing a loss of more than USD 100 billion worth of materials each year.10

A new textiles economy, how clothing recycling can help
A new textiles economy – based on circular economy principles – would lead to better outcomes. It can address issues such as water consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, chemical use in textile production processes, and reduces waste creation on land oceans and waterways.

Brand Reactions

  • In 2019, 36 major fashion and textile brands including ASOS, H&M, Nike, and Marks and Spencer made a pledge that 100 per cent of the cotton they use will come from sustainable sources by 2025.11
  • A Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action was launched by the United Nations in 2018, where 40 major brands and suppliers – such as Stella McCartney, Burberry and Adidas – pledged to take action on the environmental or social impact of the fashion industry and cooperate with the charter’s 16 targets. This includes net zero emissions by 2050 and using sustainable materials to achieve these goals.12


  • 1, 2 “Fast Fashion Is Creating an Environmental Crisis,” Alden Wicker, Newsweek, 2016.
  • 3 “A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning fashion’s future,” Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017
  • 4, 5 “Too Much to Wear: The 2018 Apparel Overproduction Summary,” ShareCloth, 2018
  • 6, 7, 9, 10 “A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning fashion’s future,” Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017
  • 8 China Association of Circular Economy, 2016
  • 11 Textile Exchange, 2019
  • 12 Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, 2018
Fast Facts

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