While the clothing industry has doubled production in the past 15 years, the time garments are worn has fallen by more than 30%. At the same time, the rising demand for low-cost fast fashion is driving a decline in the quality of the materials, which makes them more difficult to re-use or recycle. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, it is estimated that 114 million tonnes of textile waste are generated every year. Of the clothing that is collected for recycling, 12% is downcycled into lower-value applications such as insulation material, and less than 1% is used to make new clothing in a closed-loop circular economy. The high content of polyester in fast fashion also means that an increasing quantity of discarded textiles are incinerated in waste-to-energy plants because of its high calorific value.
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