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Fast Fashion Waste to Industry 4.0

How Fast Fashion Waste Leads to Industry 4.0
Facts have shown that the fashion industry is rapidly growing, but there are problems that arise with rapid growth. The biggest problem that has risen is waste generated from “Fast Fashion”. The blame is not entirely in garment industry itself but the product line as a whole, from the government, designer industry, garment industry and eventually the consumer level. They all contribute to the increase in fast fashion waste. The growth of fast fashion has caused an increase in garment waste, and through garment waste, the industries are reaching new heights towards “Industry 4.0”.

The Waste from Garment Products
Fast Fashion was indeed generated through consumer purchasing habits and thus affecting designer industries to demand more products which affordable and support the fast fashion lifestyle which tend to have a shorter garment lifespan; clothes that easily replaced with the new style. Therefore, briefly worn clothes are quickly thrown away. Believe it or not “fashion is the second-most polluting industry after oil” (Optitex, Mass Production in the Fashion Industry: How quantity outweighs quality and leads to waste and financial loss)! A good example of how much fast fashion has grown, is in the United States. In less than twenty years, they have doubled their number of garments discarded every year from 7 million to 14 million tons! (Optitex, Mass Production in the Fashion Industry: How quantity outweighs quality and leads to waste and financial loss)

Environmental impact is not only generated though discarding garment pieces, but also through the process in making a lower quality materials used. Environmentally speaking, the number one cause that makes these garments dangerous is the pollution generated by industrial water pollution. Two, the chemicals used to make these garments, which has an impact on the land where it will be discarded. Three, synthetic products decomposition time will increased significantly with chemical mixtures.

Fast Fashion Waste

Governments Efforts
There are 3 major countries that has taken actions towards fast fashion, and they are all located in the European Union (EU), namely “the UK, France, and Denmark”. (Optitex, The Bond between Recycling, Sustainability and Technology) The UK has established the UK Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (UK SCAP), France with Textile Recycling Valley Initiative (TRVI), and Denmark with drastic measures establishing the Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) which enforces sustainability as part of the company’s business strategy. “GFA is led by industry experts, designers, researchers, scientists and key technology companies” (Optitex, The Bond between Recycling, Sustainability and Technology) to work closely with multimillion retailers in changing the way fashion is manufactured, marketed and consumed. These three countries are trying to set a standard for their neighboring countries in implementing measures to garment wastes. To their success, the EU Commissions has launched a €5.5 billion program to establish a system for garment waste by 2020.

EU Council Meeting

How Technologies Plays a Role
To help fight environmental consequences of fast fashion, “the apparel industry is developing new technologies that provide alternatives to harmful solvents”. (Optitex, From Pollution to Solution: Breaking Down Waste in the Fashion Industry) For example: the short-chain fluorinated polymers are used to repel stains and water. Technologies not only help with the production of garment industries but also help in modifying the process of the textile industries, causing them to consume less water and use a more environmental-friendly chemicals.

Many big brand fashion industries, namely Levi’s and Adidas, have started their campaign in technologies to create a more eco-friendly product that doesn’t harm the consumers and the environment. They have developed and produced “biodegradable materials to replace the synthetic and other fabrics that are harmful to the environment”. (Optitex, The Bond between Recycling, Sustainability and Technology) It is amazing how technologies plays such a big role in these two companies making them a better and sustainable product, not only does this help the environment, it is now a higher quality product compared to the previous version.

H&M took a different approach, they did a research and concluded that most of the water used and carbon emission is during the process of fiber production, like cotton and polyester. With the combination of industry leaders and technologists, solutions will soon be visible to completely reuse and recycle textile fibers for new usage. Regarding fibers, Levi’s is already processing old clothes to make new fiber that they will use for their jeans manufacture; this is an alternative to the water-intensive cotton production.

Levi's

How is Fast Fashion Waste Related to Industry 4.0?
Before talking about the connection between fast fashion waste and Industry 4.0, we must first define what is Industry 4.0? Industry 4.0 is the cyber-physical transformation of manufacturing, resulting in smart factory and making full use of digital manufacturing. How is this related to fast fashion waste? First, digital manufacturing takes advantage and maximizing efficiency that optimize the use of fabrics. Such as the creation of high efficient marker made by auto marker (auto nesting); adoption of factory automation, which minimizing the unnecessary material wasting, due to programmed processes by machine automation. Second, not only does technology helps sustain a more environmental productions, it helps increase the quantity and speed of production. Good example is the reduction of materials used and faster feedback communication to make samples with the 3D software’s. Going back to sampling, based on OPTITEX research on the advantages of digital sample, digital sampling can speed the process by 1.5 times to the final approved sample!