In Italy we have a huge asset based on Textile, Apparel and Fashion business: it is one of the most strategic industries in our economy, with around 45.000 companies, 400.000 workers and a global revenue of 55 billion euro (figures by Confindustria 2019). It is a complex, fragmented supply chain, still based on small to medium family business, often aggregated into districts.
As in many other countries, it is dealing with a challenge in terms of re-organization and transformation, to become more sustainable and move to a circular model.
This transition, strongly pushed or affected by European regulations, is even more critical in Italy, as we mostly import natural fibres (we do not produce them internally) and we generate growing volumes of textile waste (around 2 kg per person per year). So, we buy lots of raw materials as manufacturers and we throw away many finished products as consumers. Our fashion system is unbalanced.
A circular model, designed to recycle and reuse materials, could strongly benefit the whole supply chain by recovering “second raw materials” and reducing the final waste disposal. Italian districts, with so many small companies working in the same area, could be the ideal scenario to implement, test and improve new circular solutions.
We must keep in mind that the main goal should be to place on the market safe products (without danger for people and planet), to produce with minimum impact for the environment (save water consumption and reduce GH emissions), to offer products that could be longer used and easily disposed, with reasonable costs, at the end of their life cycle.
Textile industry has specific, challenging issues.
Recycle is much complicated, as products are often multi-materials (with a mix of synthetic fibres, stretch fabrics, heat-sealed linings, fake leather components, synthetic seams). Also, pure virgin fabrics are low quality and low cost, and it is often impossible to re-use them.
Safety is critical as well, because products are often subjected to chemical treatments (preparation, dyeing and finishing of fabrics) which can potentially impact on health.
Furthermore, legal constraints must be considered: in Italy textile waste is a “special waste” to be disposed in controlled landfill and possibly re-used in other production chains.
Sustainability is clearly a global topic, but in our Italian supply chain we can implement our peculiar model, involving the whole supply chain with a solid action plan.
We can focus on 3 main innovation areas:
- Pre-production: to design long lasting and environment friendly products, which could be easily reused, reconverted, disassembled and disposed.
- Production: to encourage new consumption models where repairs, reuse and sharing are a standard.
- Post-production: to innovate, improve and optimize recycling and upcycling processes.
Logistics can have an impact on each area: direct impact through operations (i.e. quality control, reconditioning, order fulfilment for rental or resale), but even indirect impact as a coordinator and facilitator between different actors in the supply chain (manufacturers, distributors, consumers, service suppliers).