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Making use of leftovers - remanufacturing in the global fashion industry

Resources:
Materials, Waste
Sector:
Textile and clothing
Cost:
Low cost
Payback time:
0 Year(s)
Read more
Resource savings: Raw material:
Re-manufacturing has the potential to cut 3 % of virgin fabrics from conventional production in total, by using the invisible or visible methods
Resource savings: Waste:
Waste disposal costs are reduced or removed by reusing off-cuts as a resource
Resource savings: Waste water:
Remanufacturing has the potential to reduce 20 % of factory waste if materials are used more efficiently by original buyers during procurement
Payback time:
No investment is required so this would represent an instant benefit
Premises and operation areas:
Product and design, Production processes
Size of company:
Micro (less than 10), Small (less than 50), Medium (less than 250), Large (more than 250)
Advancement in applying resource efficiency measures:
Beginner
What is the business case of this measure?:

Looking at the example of Bangladesh, research by Reverse Resources suggest that the 400 000 tonnes of leftover material created each year could be remanufactured into 1.6 billion garments a year, worth € 3.4 billion

What is in it for you:
Reducing off-cut waste and associated costs, recycling and upcycling materials, adding value through creative designs and processes
Descriptive information:

Pre-consumer textile waste in the cloth manufacturing sector is currently estimated at around 20 %. However, research suggests this figure could be much higher if all cutting scraps, production rejects (not meeting quality standards) and unsold items are taken into consideration. 

Global brands, the buyers of garments, hold the power over manufacturing companies and are therefore able to control the waste produced in many areas of the supply chain. Remanufacturing provides an avenue to develop manufacturer-retailer transparency in pursuit of a more circular economy with economic gains and greater environmental protection.

Before being sent for recycling, or other sectors, remanufacturing leftover material from the production of garments can increase the value of such material up to four-fold and greatly reduce demand for new, virgin fabric. A high level of standardisation in the clothing produced can be maintained and 20 % of fabric leftovers diverted.

But how can this 'waste' be remanufactured or repurposed?

1. Invisible remanufacturing: Production leftovers are used 'invisibly' on the internal sections of a garment (e.g. pockets and cuffs), leaving the exterior of the garment completely standardised. This method can reduce the volume of virgin material required by approximately 3 %.

2. Visible remanufacturing: Using left-over fabrics for small details on the outside of a garment. This could be done in the same or a contrasting colour. The leftover fabric is visible but does not significantly affect the design of the garment. For example, using visible remanufacturing in the production of 10 000 hoodies, some 17 % less virgin fabric would be needed, saving 0.88 tonnes in waste material and 7 827 kg of CO2.

3. Design-led remanufacturing: Designing a garment with a specific waste stream in mind. This is similar to the concept of upcycling fashion design, except the garment does not have to be made out of 100 % leftovers.

Remanufacturing can be done without significant investment in technology. Often it only means adapting processes slightly, improving segregation and storage systems in factories, and creating fast and accurate communication and data exchange from factory to designer. 

Sources

WRAP Clothing Knowledge Hub, http://ckh.wrap.org.uk/garmentManufacture/designEfficiency?breadcrumb=Explore+by%3A+Process+Step

Rosenbloom, S. 2010. Fashion Tries on Zero Waste Design. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/15/fashion/15waste.html?_r=3&scp=1&sq=zero%20waste%20jeans&st=cse&

Rissanen, T. 2009. ‘Fashion Creation without Fabric Waste Creation’, blogpost. zerofabricwastefashion.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/hoodie-attempt-to-explain.html

April 2012. Zero Waste Fashion. The Melbourne Review.

Further Information

WRAP. 2012. A Waste Footprint Assessment for UK Clothing. http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Appendix%20VI%20-%20Waste%20footprint%20report.pdf

Gwilt, A. and Rissanen T. 2011. Shaping Sustainable Fashion: Changing the Way We Make and Use Clothes. Routledge

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