The automotive and other sectors have, for a number of years, been under increasing social and regulatory pressure to reduce their harmful impact on the environment (ICCT; 2014). In South Africa, the clothing and textiles industry has lagged in the adoption of environmentally friendly practices (Mehta, Goyal; 2015).

On a global scale, the fashion, apparel and textiles industry accounts for 10 % of carbon emissions, being the second largest industrial polluter after oil. Globally, 24% of all insecticides and 11% of all pesticides are used in cotton farming. It is the single largest pesticide-consuming crop in the world, with adverse effects on soil and water. As a whole, the fashion industry is the second biggest polluter of freshwater resources globally (Conca; 2015).

Cotton farmers are not the only contributors to environmental waste in the value chain. Every production process involved in textile production and garment construction produces some kind of indirect or direct environmental waste. The implementation of lean practices goes some way to reducing this waste. Little consideration is, however, given to the environmental impact of raw material wastage. By way of an example, it is also estimated that 15% of the textiles intended for clothing manufacture end up on the cutting room floor (Textile Future; 2016).

The full article, published in the KZN CTC newsletter, looks at some examples of South African and foreign initiatives to reduce raw material waste through a process called Industrial Symbiosis. The newsletter is available for reading and download here.