The invention and rise of plastic has been both a blessing and a curse for the people of the world. This family of resilient materials has enabled us to create useful, affordable, lightweight goods that last. However, these goods, used for everything from containers to construction to non-sustainable fabrics, are taking a toll on our environment.
Despite lockdowns during COVID-19, we still saw a significant rise in single use plastic products in 2020. Still, plastic pollution was a problem before the pandemic and it will remain one long after.
Perhaps surprisingly, fabrics are a major contributor to the issue. Experts estimate that apparel makes up more of our municipal waste than bottles and containers. Moreover, 60% of materials used in clothing worldwide are plastics. At last count, the EPA estimates that textiles made up a staggering 16% of all landfilled and destroyed municipal solid waste.
Learn more about non-sustainable fabrics and what retailers and manufacturers can do to help reduce this issue starting today.
Multiple Routes to Sustainable Fabrics
Lots of factors determine the final environmental impact of a cloth good, including manufacturing and transportation.
Major producers can focus on choosing smarter construction materials to build their production facilities. Similarly, they could transition to more efficient equipment and processes, and greener energy sources to power them. They could even rethink logistics and shipping to burn less fuel moving their raw materials and products around.
Even better than these steps, however, would be to give a second thought to those materials that actually go into their products. Many textiles are difficult and expensive to safely dispose of at the end of their useful lives—namely, partially and fully synthetic fabrics.
A word of caution: It can be tempting to scapegoat synthetics, but keep in mind sustainability is more complex than that. There are many issues at play, and there is no magic bullet to solve them. True solutions will require resources like planning, financial investment, leadership buy-in, and time. Still, that’s not to say there aren’t ways to create an immediate positive impact (but more on that later).
First, it’s important to have some background on this major environmental threat.
The Plastics Problem
Although they might not look like it, many garments made of synthetic materials are chemically no different than the disposable plastic packaging that pollutes our land and oceans. These materials are extremely resilient—a good and bad thing. Consider that under ideal conditions, polyester won’t break down sooner than 20 years and can take as long as 200 years to fully decompose.
Aside from not breaking down, the fibers in landfilled synthetic textiles easily find their way into our waters. There, they enter the food chain when organisms consume them. While we are able to measure the increasing levels of microplastics in the environment, we don’t yet know the full extent of their harm. Based on current studies, experts suspect numerous negative effects.
Brands should be seeking out rugged, comfortable, and sustainable fabrics to ensure the material doesn’t overstay its welcome on earth. This includes not just clothing companies, but any business that rely on fabrics such as auto manufacturers and furniture brands as well. By being wiser about the materials they select, companies can continue to produce the things that consumers love while minimizing damage to the earth and our own health.
The Waste of Excess Inventory
Make no mistake—greener factories, better logistics, and smarter materials are all worthwhile pursuits. But these practices all have to do with production and delivery. While many companies’ sustainability initiatives show promise, they don’t address one key issue that’s already sitting right under our noses. Part of the problem is overproduction and excess inventory. But what exactly does this mean and why is it an issue?
What many consumers may not realize is that a good portion of clothing brands’ impact on the environment comes from millions of never-used clothing items—unsold inventory or returns—that are simply sitting in warehouses.
It can be hard to precisely predict demand for clothing any given season. Because of this retailers tend to overproduce so they can always meet demand. Additionally, it’s highly resource-intensive to relocate, process, inspect, repackage, and restock returned or lightly damaged merchandise. Because of the cost of remarketing, the cheapest option is the landfill. That’s exactly where you don’t want synthetic non-sustainable fabrics to go. But what’s a business to do?
Second Chances on the Secondary Market
There is a way for retailers to recover some of this value while being sustainable. Fabric products like clothes and shoes can do quite well on the secondary market. Countless resellers all over the world are looking to buy products at a low rate and sell them at a profit.
Businesses have many options when it comes to selecting a liquidation solution that will circulate these products into the secondary market. Traditionally, however, liquidation involves layers of middlemen that will profit from lowballing retailers. B-Stock puts an end to this.
B-Stock differs in that it uses an online auction format. This puts retailers in direct contact with hundreds of thousands of buyers worldwide, giving unsold products new life, while fetching the highest price that the market will supply. Even better, the buyers are vetted so you know they’ll be respectful of the brand you work hard to maintain. It also guarantees they won’t compete with retailer’s primary sales channels.
Taking advantage of the secondary market is just a modest step on the journey to sustainability. It is also, however, an important one that may just help flatten the curve of pollution problems as we innovate new practices to keep our planet clean and our business growing.
To learn more about how B-Stock can work for you, sign up for a demo today.