The total carbon footprint of clothing bought in the UK has gone up since 2012, when WRAP launched its Sustainable Clothing Action Plan SCAP), a voluntary agreement aiming to reduce the carbon, waste and water footprint of clothing by 15 per cent by 2020. In 2016, 26.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) were produced from clothing in use the UK – that’s looking across a garment’s life cycle, from production and transport to washing, drying and disposa”As WRAP’s Director Peter Maddox points out, “only housing, transport and food have greater environmental impacts than clothing”. The main culprit for these environmental impacts is the extraction of new resources for clothing – around nine million tonnes of CO2e every year comes from fiber production from agriculture or polymer extrusion (for synthetic fabrics)”Maddox continued: “With rising global demand we urgently need to secure new sources of materials and find new markets for used clothing. Fiber to fiber recycling offers a potential solution – but one that has not been properly investigated”“Our report is the first to explain the economics of fiber to fiber recycling and will help investors, business-developers and the recycling sector navigate this relatively young, uncharted field. New processes and entrants onto the market should be monitored to inform the business case for future investment, but we already see potential for post-consumer textiles to become part of the UK’s fashion scene.””The report highlights that cotton and polyester are the materials with the most potential for fiber to fiber recycling. These are the most commonly used materials in clothing and household textiles, and with demand for cotton growing – and a five-million tonne deficit in raw cotton predicted by 2020 – the picture looks positive for the recycled fiber market”However, significant barriers will need to be overcome to help the industry increase its uptake of recycled fibers. One barrier is the lack of information about new recycling processes for fibers: the report identifies chemical recycling processes (dissolving fabrics in chemicals and re-spinning the resulting pulp into yarn) as potentially more financially viable than mechanical recycling techniques Such as shredding), but chemical techniques are still in their early stages Moreover, for these techniques to take off, WRAP’s report states that there need to be significant improvements in the collection and sorting of post-consumer textiles in order to meet demands for high-quality feed stock. The costs of improving collection and sorting could potentially be funded through an extended producer responsibility (EPR) regime for textiles, which would see producers invest in fiber to fiber recycling”In order to make post-consumer fiber an attractive and financially viable prospect for processors, demand from brands and retailers also needs to stimulated, along with a more positive perception of recycled materials from consumersAlan Wheeler, Director of the Textile Recycling Association, expressed his support for the research, saying: ““The current markets for mechanically recycled fibers are limited, and to be able to collect more clothing that is currently being disposed of we must find new markets for recycled fibers or risk flooding these markets and potentially having to dispose of low value recycling grade textiles. Clearly this cannot happen “This research will help us to obtain a greater understanding of the market sensitivities, particularly of the fledgling chemical recycling processes, and how used textile collectors and processors may have to adapt their practices going forward to maximize value and recyclability of used textiles.”.Growing concerns”WRAP’s report comes as the clothing industry is facing increasing scrutiny, with an ongoing inquiry from Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) looking at what leading fashion retailers are doing to improve the environmental impact of their clothing”An interim report from the EAC recently shone a light on the retailers that are most and least engaged with improving their sustainability record. Primark, Tesco, ASOS and Marks and Spencer are all highlighted as taking positive steps, for instance through using sustainable cotton and offering take back schemes for their products. These retailers are also all signed up to the SCAP 2020 targets. However, many retailers have opted out of the voluntary targets, with JD Sports, TK Maxx, Amazon UK, Boohoo and Miss-guided all named and shamed”