NAIROBI, March 23 (Xinhua) -- The fashion industry is exploring a variety of new innovations, including using orange peels to make leather substitute products and resorting to the industrial processing of wood to replace plastics used in large-scale garment production, industry players said.
The industry players like the Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), which produces fast-fashion clothing and operates in 62 countries, is among the world's textile industry firms seeking to use environmentally-friendly materials in the production of garments.
Pierre Borjesson, H&M Country Manager for Ethiopia and head of supply chain in Africa, said in a recent interview that the clothing company is engaged in recycling of plastic bottles to produce environmentally-friendly materials for its global clothing empire.
Nikhil Deshpande, head of sustainable solutions at the Petrochemicals at Reliance Industries Limited of India, said his company was also collecting plastic bottles, which it treats and uses for making fabrics.
"It gives us savings in terms of the energy used to make the fabrics. We have reduced our environmental footprint. The materials treatment is important. Textiles cannot be collected and recovered and might be difficult to recycle. We have embarked on setting up a chemical recycling plant to recycle plastics," Deshpande told Xinhua.
The H&M promotes environmental conservation and sustainable use of textiles through a clothes take-back system where clients return unused or used garments for recycling, Borjesson said.
"We are enabling customers to return used textiles. These include unused curtains. Once these textiles are returned, we determine what needs to be done," Borjesson said during a UN Environment Assembly meeting in Nairobi recently to discuss strategies for sustainable consumption and cutting pollution.
"We follow a recycling hierarchy. It does not mean everything returned to factory has to be recycled," Borjesson said.
The global textiles industry is considered among the world's second worst environmental polluters after the oil sector.
UN Environment figures show textile industry sold clothes valued at about 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars in 2016. The textile industry produces some 80 billion garments and creates 60 to 75 million jobs.
However, inefficiency leads to loss of 500 billion dollars through the production chain every year, UN Environment says.
The UN Environment argues better knowledge of the textile manufacturing chain and the social and environmental impact it causes is crucial for the responses.
The industry is yet to close the loopholes required to reduce the environmental impacts of the textile industry.
Lena Pripp-Kovac, head of sustainability at Inter IKEA Group, said her company is re-looking at the materials it is currently using for furniture and garments, ending up in people's homes.
Pripp-Kovac said while the textiles industry has several factors to be considered in its search for environmental solutions, the company was keen to ensure its products are made from recycled and renewable materials.
Pripp-Kovac said Inter IKEA companies are currently working to reduce the environmental impact caused by the textile materials used for furniture, couch covers, cushions and curtain.
"The mission is to ensure the materials we use are recycle-friendly. We are also looking into wood and textiles manufactured from wood. We are now making curtains which can also purify air. We have developed an appliance which helps in purifying air," Pripp-Kovac said.
She said all the new innovations are currently being tested in laboratories before being introduced into the market such that laboratories remain the primary testing ground.
Borjesson said by 2020, H&M will not use conventional cotton. It will use recycled cotton. By 2018, 95 percent of cotton was recycled cotton and organic cotton.
H&M plans to provide incentives to those returning unused textiles.
The company has started a new system of providing care for the returned textiles, Borjesson said. He said H&M will make it easy to re-use the textiles.
In 2017, H&M deployed the use of recycled plastic bottles to create fabrics for producing garments.
The plan is part of efforts to ensure used plastic bottles are back into production rather than ending into oceans.
Borjesson said H&M is working on finding models which can work for environmental sustainability.
"We are currently focusing our research on finding non-oil based materials," he said.