Worth Reading

Textile and apparel industry leaders undertake ambitious projects to reduce environmental impact

A number of textile and apparel industry leaders have revealed ambitious environmental projects in a bid to reduce the impact of the industry on the environment, according to issue 112 of Technical Textile Markets from the global business information company Textiles Intelligence.

The global textile industry produces around 60 million tons of waste annually. Of this only 32 % is reused or recycled in some way, leaving 68 % still going to landfill.

The global apparel industry produces some 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases annually, which accounts for around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than the amount generated by international flights and shipping combined and reflects the fact that the industry’s sales have increased at a compound annual growth rate of about 5.5 % to USD 2.4 trillion in total value over the past decade.

As the textile and apparel industries continue to grow, there will be rising pressure for companies to find ways of improving the impact of their operations and products on the environment.

With this objective in mind, the EU has developed a variety of initiatives, including the Circular Economy Action Plan and the Single-Use Plastics Directive. The initiatives emphasise upcycling, recycling, resource efficiency and reclamation.

A number of companies around the world have responded to the initiatives by establishing ambitious environmental projects.

For example, Indorama Ventures Limited (IVL) has formed a joint venture with Loop Industries which may prove to be the biggest contributor to the development of a circular economy within the textile industry, and is poised to take the recycling of polyethylene therephthalate PET fibre-based products to the next level.

The joint venture–which has received backing from global giants such as Coca Cola, Danone, Evian, L’Oreal and Pepsi–makes use of Loop Industries’ technology, which allows plastics of little or no value to be diverted, recovered and recycled endlessly into new virgin quality PET.

PrimaLoft has launched a new product made from 100 % recycled PET which biodegrades when exposed to microbes in landfill or ocean water. However, it remains highly durable throughout its usable life cycle.

Also, the company has announced that it expects 90 % of its insulation products to incorporate 50 % post-consumer recycled content by 2020.

Other environmental projects involve a Garment-To-Garment Recycling System at an upcycling mill operated by Novetex Textiles in Hong Kong, which can turn old clothes into new garments in around 35 minutes, and the development of aerogels made from recycled PET polymer by the National University of Singapore (NUS).

However, the textile and apparel industries still have a long way to go. Indeed, the amount of waste generated by the industries could be as high as 148 million tons by 2030 unless urgent action is taken.


Malaysian clothing imports continue to surge

Malaysian clothing imports surged by no less than 425 % in the seven years to 2017, according to a commercially available report in issue 194 of Textile Outlook International from the global business information company Textiles Intelligence.

Moreover, further growth in imports is likely as a result of increases in clothing sales in the domestic market–in line with rising personal disposable incomes–as the government moves towards its goal of achieving “high income status” by 2020.

Another factor which is likely to contribute to growth in clothing imports is that the age profile of the population is young–the young tend to be much more fashion conscious than their elders and spend more money on clothing.

One of the reasons for the surge in imports in recent years is the fact that clothing production has been rising at a much slower pace. This reflects a number of factors, including rising production costs, a general lack of skilled personnel, a high dependency on imported raw materials and, not least, competition from lower cost suppliers–especially those based in low cost producing countries in Asia.

Exports have also been rising at a slower pace. As a result, Malaysia is now a net importer of clothing–in contrast to the situation in most other major clothing producing countries in Asia.

A further significant rise in clothing imports would provide opportunities for several of Malaysia’s key supplying countries. Among these are Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, which benefit from free trade with Malaysia through membership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Admittedly, Malaysia’s largest clothing supplier, by a considerable margin, is China. In 2017 imports from China amounted to USD 0.8 billion and accounted for a 47 % share of Malaysia’s clothing imports from all sources.

However, in May 2018, after 61 years, a new Malaysian government–the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition led by Mahathir Mohamed–was voted into office and this government appears to want to loosen ties with China. The new government’s approach to China stems from growing unease over China’s rising economic and political influence in South-East Asia in what Mahathir Mohamed has described as a “new colonialism”.

Having said that, it is likely that China will continue to be Malaysia’s largest clothing supplier for some time yet, given that Malaysia has a free trade agreement with China under the auspices of Asean. Furthermore, China and Malaysia are two of 16 countries currently negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).