More recycling can’t fix the fundamental flaws with fast fashion

Imagine if every piece of clothing you own could be recycled into fully new garments when they were worn out, or when you grew bored of them. This concept, called circularity, has become the buzzword du jour in fashion circles. But it’s usually an abbreviated definition of circularity that think tanks and policy papers endorse. A more comprehensive “circularity” would look at the amount of clothing produced and the full life-cycle costs of a garment, from eliminating the industry’s reliance on petroleum-based plastics and coal-powered plants to the toxic dyes, sweatshop assemblies, and massive shipping footprint required to make our clothing.

Instead, the circularity conversation in the fashion industry tends to focus primarily on reducing waste and, more specifically, recycling clothing. Take a look at the Global Fashion Agenda and their call to action for a circular fashion system: “By acting now,” says the agenda, “the fashion industry can lead the transition to a circular system that reuses and recirculates products and materials while offering new opportunities for innovative design, increased customer engagement, and for capturing economic value.”