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Reducing environmental impacts from garments through best practice garment use and care, using the example of a Merino wool sweater

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  • Integrity Ag & Environment
  • Carbon Friendly Pty Ltd

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Purpose Garment production and use generate substantial environmental impacts, and the care and use are key determinants of cradle-to-grave impacts. The present study investigated the potential to reduce environmental impacts by applying best practices for garment care combined with increased garment use. A wool sweater is used as an example because wool garments have particular attributes that favour reduced environmental impacts in the use phase. Methods A cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment (LCA) was used to compare six plausible best and worst-case practice scenarios for use and care of a wool sweater, relative to current practices. These focussed on options available to consumers to reduce impacts, including reduced washing frequency, use of more efficient washing machines, reduced use of machine clothing dryers, garment reuse by multiple users, and increasing number of garment wears before disposal. A sixth scenario combined all options. Worst practices took the worst plausible alternative for each option investigated. Impacts were reported per wear in Western Europe for climate change, fossil energy demand, water stress and freshwater consumption. Results and discussion Washing less frequently reduced impacts by between 4 and 20%, while using more efficient washing machines at capacity reduced impacts by 1 to 6%, depending on the impact category. Reduced use of machine dryer reduced impacts by < 5% across all indicators. Reusing garments by multiple users increased life span and reduced impacts by 25–28% across all indicators. Increasing wears from 109 to 400 per garment lifespan had the largest effect, decreasing impacts by 60% to 68% depending on the impact category. Best practice care, where garment use was maximised and care practices focussed on the minimum practical requirements, resulted in a ~ 75% reduction in impacts across all indicators. Unsurprisingly, worst-case scenarios increased impacts dramatically: using the garment once before disposal increased GHG impacts over 100 times. Conclusions Wool sweaters have potential for long life and low environmental impact in use, but there are substantial differences between the best, current and worst-case scenarios. Detailed information about garment care and lifespans is needed to understand and reduce environmental impacts. Opportunities exist for consumers to rapidly and dramatically reduce these impacts. The fashion industry can facilitate this through garment design and marketing that promotes and enables long wear life and minimal care.
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https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-021-01909-x
LCA FORMANUFACTURING ANDNANOTECHNOLOGY
Reducing environmental impacts fromgarments throughbest
practice garment use andcare, using theexample ofaMerino wool
sweater
StephenG.Wiedemann1· LeoBiggs1· QuanV.Nguyen1· SimonJ.Clarke1· KirsiLaitala2· IngunG.Klepp2
Received: 7 October 2020 / Accepted: 4 April 2021
© The Author(s) 2021
Abstract
Purpose Garment production and use generate substantial environmental impacts, and the care and use are key determinants
of cradle-to-grave impacts. The present study investigated the potential to reduce environmental impacts by applying best
practices for garment care combined with increased garment use. A wool sweater is used as an example because wool gar-
ments have particular attributes that favour reduced environmental impacts in the use phase.
Methods A cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment (LCA) was used to compare six plausible best and worst-case practice
scenarios for use and care of a wool sweater, relative to current practices. These focussed on options available to consumers
to reduce impacts, including reduced washing frequency, use of more efficient washing machines, reduced use of machine
clothing dryers, garment reuse by multiple users, and increasing number of garment wears before disposal. A sixth scenario
combined all options. Worst practices took the worst plausible alternative for each option investigated. Impacts were reported
per wear in Western Europe for climate change, fossil energy demand, water stress and freshwater consumption.
Results and discussion Washing less frequently reduced impacts by between 4 and 20%, while using more efficient washing
machines at capacity reduced impacts by 1 to 6%, depending on the impact category. Reduced use of machine dryer reduced
impacts by < 5% across all indicators. Reusing garments by multiple users increased life span and reduced impacts by 25–28%
across all indicators. Increasing wears from 109 to 400 per garment lifespan had the largest effect, decreasing impacts by 60% to
68% depending on the impact category. Best practice care, where garment use was maximised and care practices focussed on
the minimum practical requirements, resulted in a ~ 75% reduction in impacts across all indicators. Unsurprisingly, worst-case
scenarios increased impacts dramatically: using the garment once before disposal increased GHG impacts over 100 times.
Conclusions Wool sweaters have potential for long life and low environmental impact in use, but there are substantial differ-
ences between the best, current and worst-case scenarios. Detailed information about garment care and lifespans is needed
to understand and reduce environmental impacts. Opportunities exist for consumers to rapidly and dramatically reduce these
impacts. The fashion industry can facilitate this through garment design and marketing that promotes and enables long wear
life and minimal care.
Keywords Apparel· Textiles· Carbon· Water· Footprint· LCA· Use phase
1 Introduction
The clothing industry is responsible for substantial environ-
mental impacts, and these are well understood in relation to
the production, manufacturing and use phases of garment
life cycles (Steinberger etal. 2009; Glew etal. 2012; Muthu
2014, 2015; Henry etal. 2019). The use phase of a garment
life cycle is a hotspot for resource use and environmental
impacts. For example, 50 to ~ 80% of energy use may be
attributed to the use phase of garments that are washed
frequently (Yasin etal. 2016) and over 70% of the GHG
Communicated by Barbara Nebel.
* Stephen G. Wiedemann
stephen.wiedemann@integrityag.net.au
1 Integrity Ag & Environment, 10511 New England Highway,
Highfields, QLD4352, Australia
2 Consumption Research Norway (SIFO), Oslo Metropolitan
University, 0130Oslo, Norway
/ Published online: 19 April 2021
The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment (2021) 26:1188–1197
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
emissions in the life cycle of a cotton T-shirt may occur after
purchase (Steinberger etal. 2009). For a wool sweater, gar-
ment care accounted for 12–31% of the direct environmental
impacts of the whole supply chain, depending on impact
categories assessed (Wiedemann etal. 2020).
To quantify the environmental impacts of the use phase
in a garment life cycle, data on garment care (Schmitz and
Stamminger 2014; Laitala etal. 2018) and utilisation (Farrant
etal. 2010; Dahlbo etal. 2017; Laitala etal. 2017a; Fei
etal. 2020) are of primary importance. Wool is a fibre type
of interest because wool fabrics have odour-resistant prop-
erties (Laing 2019; McQueen and Vaezafshar 2020). The
cradle-to-grave environmental impacts of a wool sweater
were recently reported by Wiedemann etal. (2020), show-
ing that the total lifespan of the garment was the single most
influential factor on environmental impacts. While that study
utilised average consumer survey data to determine the most
common current garment use practices, a wide range in con-
sumer behaviour was observed: the maximum garment use
was much higher than the average, and washing practices
varied substantially for the same garment in ways that are
likely to influence environmental impacts. These findings
suggest that opportunities exist for improvement by optimis-
ing garment care and use (here termed ‘best practice’ care).
This paper therefore aimed to extend the findings of the cra-
dle-to-grave research by examining best practice care, using
plausible scenarios that could be adopted by consumers, and
contrasting these with both current practice and ‘worst case’
practices. The objective was to provide recommendations for
the fashion industry, authorities and consumers to minimise
the environmental impact of wool garments.
2 Materials andmethods
2.1 Goal andscope
The goal of this study was to examine the potential for con-
sumers to reduce the environmental impacts of a wool gar-
ment worn in Western Europe. An attributional life cycle
assessment (aLCA) model was applied in this study to quan-
tify the benefits of different best practice consumer activities
on the full life cycle impacts of a wool garment. The method
was consistent with ISO 14044 (ISO 2006), ISO 14046(ISO
2014) and wool LCA guidelines (IWTO 2016). The total
resource use and emissions to air, water and landwere
modelled for the full life cycle (i.e. cradle-to-grave system
boundary). The garment supply chain included Merino wool
production in Australia, wool processing and garment manu-
facture in China, and garment use and disposal in the Western
Europe, as described by the companion paper (Wiedemann
etal. 2020).
The functional unit was one wear of a wool sweater
(pullover) weighing 0.3kg (Wiedemann etal. 2020) used
in Western Europe. The use phase included garment retail,
garment reuse and garment care. Garment retail included
consumer transport to purchase the garment and the material
and energy requirements associated with its sale in a cloth-
ing store. Garment reuse was a function of the number of
garment wear events and the rate of reuse (i.e. wears after
a first user). Garment care practices included washing and
drying processes.
2.2 Impact assessment
The impact categories of climate change, fossil energy
demand, freshwater consumption and water stress were
assessed using SimaPro 9.1 (Pré-Consultants 2020). These
impact categories were chosen because (1) they were the
focus of the companion paper (Wiedemann etal. 2020) and
(2) because previous research has shown the use phase may
be a hotspot for these impacts (Steinberger etal. 2009; Cot-
ton Inc. 2016; Zamani etal. 2017; Moazzem etal. 2018).
For GWP, the AR5 100-year global warming potential
(GWP100) values (IPCC 2013) were applied with charac-
terisation factors for methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O)
of 28 and 265kg CO2-eq, respectively. The GWP impacts
excluded emissions from land-use change (e.g. gases from
land transformation), which were found to be negligible in
previous research assessing wool production at the farm-
scale in Australia (Wiedemann etal. 2016a, b). Fossil fuel
energy demand was assessed from an inventory of fossil fuel
use throughout the system and was reported in megajoules
(MJ) with lower heating values (LHV). Cumulative energy
demand (CED) was also used to access the total energy
demand inclusive of renewable energy and reported in MJ
LHV. Freshwater consumption was calculated as the total
volume (in litres, L) of freshwater consumed throughout the
supply chain including water supply losses. Water stress was
assessed using the water stress index (WSI) (Pfister etal.
2009) and reported in litre water equivalents (H2O-e) (Rid-
outt and Pfister 2010).
2.3 Inventory data anddescription ofscenarios
Foreground inventory data for wool fibre production, wool
processing and garment manufacturing were taken from
Wiedemann etal. (2016a) and Wiedemann etal. (2018).
Impacts from current practice (CP) were described thor-
oughly in Wiedemann etal. (2020) (see Section3), and this
was used as the reference for best practice and worst case
scenarios. Inventory data for best practices were from the lit-
erature (e.g. Laitala etal. 2018) and survey data presented in
Wiedemann etal. (2020). Background inventory data from
the ecoinvent ‘attributional’ v3.6 database (Wernet etal.
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2016) and the AusLCI database (ALCAS 2015) were used
for electricity production and supply, wastewater treatment
and the transport of inputs needed for the production of raw
materials.
For all scenarios, it was assumed that the average portion
of machine washing, hand washing and dry-cleaning was
63%, 27% and 10% respectively (Wiedemann etal. 2020).
For reused garments, it was assumed that the total num-
ber of wears was 50% less than new garments (Wiedemann
etal. 2020). The collection and sorting process for reused
garments included a single wash. The energy required for
laundering was a dependent parameter, influenced by the
consumer washing machine and dryer model choices and
their laundering methods. Consumer washing and drying
practices were explored in a series of scenarios. These sce-
narios are summarised below, their key parameters are sum-
marised in Table1 and the parameter values are presented
in Table2.
Scenario 1—washing frequency. Wool garments can be
worn longer between washing intervals than garments made
of other fibre types because of the natural odour resistant
properties of wool (Laing 2019; McQueen and Vaezafshar
2020). Airing is a traditional way of keeping wool cloth-
ing free of odour (Laitala etal. 2017a). A survey of Dutch
Table 1 Best and worst
practice scenarios for consumer
behaviour
a See Table2 for parameter values
Relevant practices Relevant parameteraScenario Scenario ID Key practices
Current All relevant parameters Current practice CP Current practice
Washing Days wear per wash (days) Scenario 1 S1B Best practice
S1W Worst practice
Washing load size (kg) Scenario 2 S2B Best practice
S2W Worst practice
Drying Drying method Scenario 3 S3B Best practice
S3W Worst practice
Lifespan Total wearing events (days) Scenario 4 S4B Best practice
S4W Worst practice
Reuse Rate of reuse Scenario 5 S5B Best practice
S5W Worst practice
Use phase All the above Scenario 6 S6B Best practice (a
combination of
all best prac-
tices)
S6W Worst practice
(a combination
of all the worst
practices)
Table 2 Key parameters for garment care, garment use and end of life inventory for the current practice (CP), best practice (B) and worst case
(W) scenarios1
a Data from survey and inventory reported in Wiedemann etal. (2020) unless noted in text
b Current practice (CP)
c Scenarios are described in the text and Table1
Parameter Unit CPaS1BcS1W S2B S2W S3B S3W S4B S4W S5B S5W S6B S6W
Days wear per wash Days 5.2 14.0 1.0 5.2 5.2 5.2 5.2 5.2 5.2 5.2 5.2 14.0 1.0
Wears (first user) Wear 79 79 79 79 79 79 79 400 1 79 79 400 1
Washing load (garment mass) kg 1.6 1.6 1.6 2.1 0.3 1.6 1.6 1.6 1.6 1.6 1.6 2.1 0.3
Energy, washing machine kWh/kg 0.19 0.19 0.19 0.10 0.40 0.19 0.19 0.19 0.19 0.19 0.19 0.10 0.40
Water per machine load L 46.0 46.0 46.0 43.0 55.3 46.0 46.0 46.0 46.0 46.0 46.0 43.0 55.3
Dried, tumble dried % 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 100.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 100.0
Dried, heated house % 41.1 41.1 41.1 41.1 41.1 0.0 0.0 41.1 41.1 41.1 41.1 0.0 0.0
Dried, line or unheated house % 44.0 44.0 44.0 44.0 44.0 50.0 0.0 44.0 44.0 44.0 44.0 50.0 0.0
Rate of reuse % 76.1 76.1 76.1 76.1 76.1 76.1 76.1 0 0 200 0 0 0
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households (Uitdenbogerd etal. 1998) showed that those
who commonly aired their garments conducted 22.5% fewer
washes than the average household. More recent studies on
laundering practices found that wool garments were worn
more days between cleaning cycles than garments made of
other fibres (Laitala etal.2018, 2020), indicating that airing
of wool garments is practised by many consumers. However,
large variations exist in how many times a wool garment is
worn before it is washed; responses varied from 1 to more
than 30 wears, and in some cases, garments had not been
washed since purchase (Wiedemann etal. 2020). In this
study, the best practice washing frequency (S1B) of 14 wears
per wash was selected as a realistic target for consumers of a
wool sweater. One wear per wash was selected as the worst
practice washing frequency (S1W) and is representative of
approximately 10% of consumers (Wiedemann etal. 2020).
Scenario 2—washing method. A washing machine with
an average load of 2.1kg at 30°C (Laitala etal. 2012) was
selected as the best practice washing method (S2B) as it is
similar to the recommended maximum load for many wool-
specific washing cycles (Kruschwitz etal. 2014; Gooijer and
Stamminger 2016). This is slightly lower than the typical
washing machine load for other fibres (2.3–3.7kg) (Laitala
and Vereide 2010) and realistic, because many washing
machines have a general 30°C wash cycle with a recom-
mended maximum load of 3.5–4.0kg (Laitala etal. 2018).
A study of washing loads in German households showed that
wool programs are selected at a similar rate to their overall
share of the garment market (Kruschwitz etal. 2014). The
specifications of a contemporary A+++ electricity efficiency-
rated washing machine (Bosch 2020a) were used to define
the water and electricity consumption of S2B. The worst
practice washing method (S2W) involved the washing of
a single garment in an older washing machine, rated B for
electricity efficiency. Dry cleaning also had high impacts
and these are known to vary (Laitala etal. 2017b and ref-
erences therein); however, a preliminary analysis showed
impacts were less than from a single garment washed in
a contemporary machine at 40°C and therefore a change
in dry cleaning frequency was not modelled for the S2W.
Modelling of a B energy efficiency-rated washing machine
was justified on the prospect of residual consumer ownership
(Michel etal. 2016). Since 2004, the electricity consumption
of washing machines has decreased approximately 75% and
washing machine water use efficiency has improved by 15%
due to a change from B to A+++ rating washing machine
(Michel etal. 2016). These performance contrasts were used
to define the water and electricity consumption of S2W.
Scenario 3—drying method. The energy required to dry
a garment is proportional to the residual moisture content
(RMC) after the washing machine spin cycle is complete;
high-speed cycles result in lower residual moisture content.
Spin speeds range from 200 to 1600rpm and the RMC
ranges from 49 to 154%, resulting in an energy requirement
of between 0.57 and 1.75 kWh kg−1 to dry the garment in a
tumble dryer (Gooijer and Stamminger 2016). An 800-rpm
washing machine spin cycle was assumed, based on typical
wool-specific cycles (Bosch 2020b), resulting in a tumble
dryer energy requirement of 0.8 kWh kg−1 (Gooijer and
Stamminger 2016) which may be lower than some condenser
and washer-dryer machines and was therefore conservative.
This was used to define the worst practice drying scenario
(S3W) in which a wool garment was always tumble dried. In
contrast, line drying outdoors or drying in an unheated room
does not require any additional energy. It is recommended
to hang woven or knitted garments on shaped hangers or
lay them on flat surfaces to dry; both types of the garment
should be dried away from direct sunlight or heat (Woolmark
2019). We considered line drying or drying in an unheated
room as best practice (S3B).
Scenario 4—lifespan. The lifespan of a garment was
determined by the total number of wears before disposal.
Consumer surveys show that wool garments are kept for
longer periods than garments of other fibre types (Laitala
etal. 2017a). A survey by Uitdenbogerd etal. (1998) showed
that an average jumper has a lifespan of 7.1years. However,
consumer wardrobe surveys (The Nielsen Company 2012)
have recorded responses of more than 14.8years when asked
how long ago a wool jumper was purchased. A maximum of
at least 400 wears during the lifespan of a wool garment was
reported from a recent consumer survey (Wiedemann etal.
2020). The consumer survey data showed 3% and 7% of
wool garments had been and were expected to be worn more
than 200 times, respectively, which increases the plausibility
and relevance of this maximum. This was used to define best
practice (S4B). In contrast, a Norwegian study on clothing
disposal showed 20% of garments were either never used
or only used a couple of times by the current owner (8–9%
were never used) (Laitala and Klepp 2013). This is identical
to the unused rate of clothing items (excluding footwear and
accessories) in the UK (Langley etal. 2013), and similar to
reports for sweaters in the Netherlands (22%) (Maldini etal.
2017) and UK (27%) (Gracey and Moon 2012). A single use
was used to define the worst practice (S4W), which included
washing and drying the garment once.
Scenario 5—reuse of the garment. A recent survey
showed that 76.1% of wool garments were either donated
to charity, gifted to friends or family or sold (Wiedemann
etal. 2020)—this was considered CP. This was consistent
with Klepp etal. (2020) who reported the current reuse prac-
tice was 1.5 users per garment lifespan on average. For the
best practice scenario, it was expected that the garment was
reused by a second and third user (including impacts associ-
ated with collection and processing), doubling the garment
lifespan (S5B), while for the worst practice (S5W) the gar-
ment was used only by the first user. It was assumed that a
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reused garment was worn half as many times as during its
first use phase (Beton etal. 2014; Wiedemann etal. 2020).
Scenario 6—cumulative consumer behaviour. Consumers
may conduct any or all the best or worst practice activities
outlined in the previous scenarios. This scenario assessed
the cumulative impacts where consumers used either all the
best (S6B) or all the worst practice scenarios (S6W). How-
ever, it was acknowledged that reuse and increased garment
use by the first user (lifespan) were inter-related and for the
cumulative study we assumed increased lifespan and current
practice for reuse.
3 Results
The environment impacts per wear of a wool garment in
the CP scenario were 0.17 ± 0.02kg CO2-e for GHG emis-
sions, 0.88 ± 0.18 MJ for fossil energy demand, 0.96 ± 0.42
L H2O-e for water stress and 2.93 ± 0.67 L freshwater con-
sumption. The CP use phase was a hotspot for water stress
(38%) and fossil energy demand (30%) in the full life cycle
of a wool garment (Table3). When the model was assessed
using cumulative energy demand, the total energy demand
was 5–11% greater depending on scenarios, showing that
on average renewable energy represented 8% of supply
chain energy. For the CP scenario, the inclusion of renew-
able energy increased the use phase CED impacts to 32% of
full life cycle impacts. Across the full life cycle, the major
sources of renewable energy were hydropower (75%) and
wind (25%). GHG emissions from the CP use phase contrib-
uted 12% of the full life cycle impacts, behind manufacturing
(29%) and fibre production (57%) (Wiedemann etal. 2020).
The use phase included retail and consumer transport—in
the CP scenario, these processes contributed to 5, 13, 4 and
3% of the full life cycle GHG, fossil energy, water stress and
freshwater consumption impacts, respectively.
The results showed that the laundering scenarios (S1,
S2 and S3) had larger effects on freshwater consump-
tion, water stress and fossil energy demand than GHG
emissions. GHG emissions were relatively insensitive to
laundering practices because the hotspot for this impact
was the fibre production phase (Table3). Among the
laundering practices examined, the most important was
the washing frequency (S1). Results obtained for the best
and worst practice scenarios are presented relative to the
CP scenario in Fig.1. Washing frequency (S1) had a larger
effect on freshwater consumption, water stress and fos-
sil energy demand than GHG emissions. Best practice
washing (S1B) resulted in moderate (≤ 20%) reductions
across all indicators, whereas worst case washing (S1W)
increased fossil energy demand by 72%, freshwater con-
sumption by 87% and more than doubled water stress.
Best practice washing machine loads (S2B) produced
minor (≤ 5%) reductions in impacts across all indicators.
Worst case washing machine loads (S2W) increased fresh-
water consumption and water stress impacts by 59% and
97%, respectively, and increased GHG emissions and fossil
energy demand by 5% and 11%, respectively.
Of all the scenarios, drying practices (S3) produced
the smallest changes in impacts: worst practice (S3W)
increased fossil energy demand by 24% and water stress
by 12%, but impacts decreased by 10% for the best prac-
tice drying (S3B). The current drying practices of wool are
already close to the best practice scenario.
Impacts were highly sensitive to the total number of
wearing events (S4). Best practice wear (S4B) showed
reductions of 68%, 61% and 58% for GHG emissions, fos-
sil energy demand and freshwater consumption, respec-
tively. In contrast, the worst practice (S4W), in which
the garment was worn and washed once before disposal,
increased GHG emissions 101 times, fossil energy demand
88 times, freshwater consumption 85 times and water
stress 73 times.
Consistently reusing garments (S5B) decreased impacts
by 28% for GHG emissions and 25% for fossil energy
demand. Impacts on water consumption and water stress
were negligible. In contrast, the worst scenario (zero reuse,
S5W) increased impacts by 24–34% (Fig.1).
The cumulative effect of all best practice activities
(S6B) showed a large reduction (~ 75% lower) across all
impact categories. In contrast, the cumulative worst prac-
tices (S6W) increased GHG emissions 102 times and fossil
energy demand 90 times, freshwater consumption 89 times
and water stress 78 times (Table3).
Table 3 Environmental impact per wear of a wool sweater in current practice (CP), best case (B) and worst case (W) garment use and care sce-
narios.Small changes between some scenarios were below two decimal places and do not appear in this table, but are shown in Fig.1
Impact category Unit CP S1B S1W S2B S2W S3B S3W S4B S4W S5B S5W S6B S6W
GHG emissions kg CO2-e 0.17 0.16 0.22 0.17 0.18 0.17 0.19 0.05 17.09 0.12 0.23 0.04 17.3
Fossil energy MJ 0.88 0.79 1.51 0.86 0.96 0.83 1.10 0.34 77.16 0.68 1.12 0.22 79.3
Water stress L H2O-e 0.96 0.77 2.27 0.90 1.89 0.94 1.07 0.48 69.83 0.77 1.19 0.26 76.5
Freshwater consumption L 2.93 2.55 5.49 2.82 4.66 2.87 3.23 1.23 250.46 2.25 3.77 0.79 263.3
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4 Discussion
4.1 Best practice garment care
This study was one of the first of its kind to compare current
consumer garment behaviour with best practices based on
garment potential and recommended care practices. Wool
garments have particular attributes that favour reduced envi-
ronmental impacts in the garment use phase, associated with
odour resistance leading to less frequent need for washing,
low washing temperature requirements and suitability for
air drying practices (Laitala and Klepp 2016; Laitala etal.
2020). While these favourable practices are typically used
for wool garments at higher rates than other fibre types, there
are opportunities to further reduce environmental impacts,
as shown in this analysis. Consistent with previous research
on the life cycle of garments (Muthu 2015; Yasin etal.
2016), the findings here show the use phase was a hotspot
for fossil energy demand and water consumption. Across
a population, variability in the washing frequency of wool
garments is expected in response to factors such as garment
use, perceived cleanliness and access to washing facilities
(Klepp etal. 2016; Laitala and Klepp 2016). Clothes are
washed for various cultural and habitual reasons, includ-
ing ritual, aesthetic, practical and hygienic reasons (Shove
2003; Klepp 2007; Yates and Evans 2016). It is plausible
that a reduced washing frequency (e.g. S1B) can be achieved
when consumers understand the odour resistant properties
of wool and its ability to remove odour through airing, and
use this practice more consistently (McQueen etal. 2008).
Because consumers often own fewer wool garments, it can
take longer to accumulate a wool-specific laundry load
(Laitala etal. 2012), which may result in less efficient wash-
ing machine loads. However, encouraging consumers to air
wool garments (Laitala and Klepp 2016) may also help
improve washing load efficiency by allowing more time to
accumulate a full wool load. Another strategy would be to
make up the rest of a wool wash with items made of other
fibres as wool washing is typically more gentle than other
wash settings and is therefore not detrimental to other fibre
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25
9012
8769
80
236
94
197
97
112
50
81
124
27
7777
7274
Freshwater consumption Water stress
Global warming Fossil energy demand
0 100 200 5000 10000 0 100 200 5000 10000
S6B
S6W
S5B
S5W
S4B
S4W
S3B
S3W
S2B
S2W
S1B
S1W
S6B
S6W
S5B
S5W
S4B
S4W
S3B
S3W
S2B
S2W
S1B
S1W
S6B
S6W
S5B
S5W
S4B
S4W
S3B
S3W
S2B
S2W
S1B
S1W
S6B
S6W
S5B
S5W
S4B
S4W
S3B
S3W
S2B
S2W
S1B
S1W
Relative to the current benchmark (%)
Scenarios
Fig. 1 Comparison of full life cycle greenhouse gas, fossil energy,
freshwater consumption, and water stress impacts between the best
(B—green) and worst (W—gray) consumer practice scenarios rela-
tive to the current practice for a wool sweater; vertical dash lines rep-
resent the current practice (CP) impacts (100%)
1193The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment (2021) 26:1188–1197
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
types. This simple step could increase the efficiency rate
(Laitala and Klepp 2016).
Best practice drying (S3B) (i.e. line drying outdoors or
inside an unheated room) was found to have modest poten-
tial to reduce impacts, largely because current practices for
drying wool garments are close to best practice. Intensive
drying options such as the use of clothes’ dryers are rarely
used for wool garments. However, with other fibre types
and other geographic regions such as the USA where use
of energy intensive clothes dryers is higher (Laitala etal.
2020), drying practices may be more significant. Overall,
these results show that a conservative washing frequency,
and to a lesser extent, efficient washing loads and limited
use of a tumble dryer, are effective ways for consumers to
reduce the use phase impacts of wool garments. This is
consistent with research showing that the GHG emissions
from the life cycle of garments are more sensitive to wash-
ing frequency than wash load or drying frequency (Gracey
and Moon 2012; Moazzem etal. 2018), and that washing
machine and dryer water and energy efficiency were more
effective at reducing GHG, energy and water impacts than
load size and tumble drying frequency (Beton etal. 2014).
Thus, although our results apply to a specific garment type,
a wool sweater, many of the recommendations for reduc-
ing the environmental impacts of use phase will also apply
for other types of garments. The benefits in changing care
practices are likely to be even higher for garments made of
cotton or synthetic fibres due to their more frequent launder-
ing, use of higher washing temperature and higher use rate
of clothes dryers. However, the inherent fibre properties on
odour formation will limit how long garments can be worn
and still be socially acceptable. This increases the impor-
tance of garment- and fibre-type specific inventory data for
accurate modelling of use phase impacts.
4.2 Best practice garment use
Longer garment lifespans and a greater number of wears per
lifespan resulted in the largest reductions in environmental
impacts in this study. This was evident where the use was
prolonged by a first user (S4B) or during the subsequent
use phases (S5B). This is consistent with research in which
scenarios of increased clothing collection and reuse showed
larger reductions in environmental impacts than garment
care scenarios across a broad range of indicators (Beton
etal. 2014; Klepp etal. 2020). Unsurprisingly, a single wear
(S4W) had high impacts across all the categories considered.
The best practice wear scenario (S4B) reduced GHG emis-
sions, fossil energy demand and freshwater consumption by
at least 50%, despite increasing the number of washes from
21 (CP) to 77. These results emphasise how important it
is to apply the correct functional unit and to use valid data
rather than simple estimates. For example, the unit of 52
washes that is used in the current Product Environmental
Footprint Category Rules (PEFCR) for t-shirts in EU (Pesnel
and Payet 2019) does not capture the importance of washing
frequency and total number of wears properly.
There are several actions that consumers, authorities
and the fashion industry can take to ensure the longevity of
clothing. Ertz etal. (2019) have analysed the efforts industry
has put into developing business models on product lifes-
pan extensions. These authors found a lack of prolonged-life
design strategies, and that most companies prefer product
nurturing strategies such as maintenance, recovery, redistri-
bution and remanufacturing, which generates more income.
Circular business models require products that are worth
circulating, thereby minimising consumer dissatisfaction,
returns and discarding of clothing, and make secondary use,
rental and repair possible. This calls for business models that
put product nature strategies first, where improvements in
product design and product quality are essential. For this,
appropriate information about product quality and proper-
ties is required. Product properties, for example that clothing
sizes broadly match the size and shape of the population’s
body shape, are important. Similarly, garments that are flex-
ible enough to be used in several occasions and by several
users enable longer lifespans with more garment wears. For
best practice garment use, the products need to be usable
both technically and socially over a long period of time and
many times, as well as by more than one user to maximise
environmental outcomes.
Authorities can contribute with consumer rights legis-
lation, where the right to make a complaint and the right
for informed choices are followed up (Brennan etal. 2017).
This will ensure that it will be easier to find and select good
products, and to complain about the poor ones. Authorities
can also set minimum standards to phase out the worst prod-
ucts on the market, akin to energy labelling requirements for
electrical appliances (Boyano etal. 2020).
Consumers can contribute by putting more effort into
finding suitable products that they like and need, and by
using their rights to make complaints (Chebat etal. 2005;
Bodey and Grace 2007). They can also ensure that clothes
get a new user either in their own circle of family and friends,
through charity organisations or through commercial solu-
tions for clothes circulation (Fisher etal. 2011; Sandin and
Peters 2018).
And last but not least, consumers can choose the best
practice by purchasing garments requiring less washing,
washing less frequently and drying in an energy-saving way.
The fact that best practice also extends garment lifetime and
saves money and time for housework can make the changes
more appealing. Knowledge about environmental impacts
and conditions around cleanliness and hygiene are important
to bring about change, as it is possible that some consum-
ers do not appreciate the capabilities of wool garments and
1194 The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment (2021) 26:1188–1197
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
therefore wash these garments too frequently, increasing
environmental impacts and also potentially reducing gar-
ment life time because of the abrasive nature of washing.
4.3 Limitations
Although this study highlighted the importance of impacts
arising from consumer practices during the use phase of a
wool garment, the results are based on inventory data for
consumers in Western Europe, particularly those in Ger-
many and the UK. Processes such as laundering vary geo-
graphically (Laitala etal. 2020), and more representative use
phase inventory data may increase the robustness of future
research. This data should focus on washing frequency, gar-
ment lifespan, washing machine performance and selected
drying method (which may be of greater relevance to gar-
ments made from fibres other than wool).
In this study, the end-of-life phase (EoL) contribution to
full life cycle impacts was minor (< 1.5%). Garments were
disposed of as municipal waste, and impacts were excluded
for co-products from incineration with energy recovery.
Higher environmental benefits can be achieved from the
EoL when garments are close-loop recycled (Cobbing and
Vicaire 2017; Yousef etal. 2019).
This research showed some contrasts between impact
categories. The use phase was a more important hotspot for
fossil energy demand and water impacts than GHG emis-
sions, with the latter result being largely influenced by the
nature of the energy grid in Western Europe. Countries that
utilise higher proportions of fossil fuels in the energy grid
than Europe, such as Australia, China and the USA, would
have higher GHG impacts than reported here. Across a full
life garment life cycle, CED impacts were up to 11% greater
than fossil energy demand, and the European use phase con-
tributed approximately 2% of this increase. Impacts derived
from a more expansive set of impact categories, such as
those of the Product Environmental Footprint scheme (Euro-
pean Commission 2017), may help prioritise actions that
reduce the impact of the garment life cycle. Future research
should explore the impact of fibre type on full life cycle
impacts because contrasts in impacts upstream of the use
phase may contrast with those of wool.
5 Conclusions
The present results show that there is need for detailed infor-
mation about garment care and lifespans to be able to model
the complete cradle-to-grave LCA of a garment, as differ-
ences between the best, current and worst case scenarios
were substantial. Wool garments have particular attributes
that resulted in lower environmental impacts from gar-
ment use, and opportunities to further reduce impacts by
maximising the number of wears per garment life. The rela-
tively high impacts from raw fibre production and manufac-
turing were substantially reduced when garments were used
over a longer use-phase period, resulting in more garment
wears. Among modelled consumer practices, increasing the
number of wear events and reducing washing frequency
were identified as the most critical factors influencing the
environmental impact per wear, whereas the drying method
produced less noticeable changes for wool garments.
Wool garments have been shown to be utilised over long
periods of time, and this study demonstrated that increased
garment use, combined with best practice care, could reduce
environmental impacts by ~ 75% compared with current
practices. This emphasises the importance of changing con-
sumers’ habits. Through promoting long garment life and
best practice garment care, clothing brands and retailers can
assist consumers to make sustainable garment choices with
wool garments. Consumers can choose the best practice in
the form of putting more effort into finding suitable products
that they like and need, purchasing garments requiring less
washing, washing less frequently and drying in an energy-
saving way.
Acknowledgements Constructive comments from anonymous peer
reviewers were greatly appreciated.
Funding This research was funded by Australian Wool Innovation
Limited (AWI) with matching research and development funding from
the Australian government under project number OF-00490.
Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attri-
bution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adapta-
tion, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long
as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source,
provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes
were made. The images or other third party material in this article are
included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated
otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in
the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not
permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will
need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a
copy of this licence, visit http:// creat iveco mmons. org/ licen ses/ by/4. 0/.
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... LCA is the most widely used tool for reporting the environmental impacts and resource use of products, and ideally should report on all major environmental impact and resource use categories affected by a product across the full supply chain. Recently, a detailed cradle-to-grave LCA study was completed for wool supply chains used to manufacture a Merino wool sweater [15] and the best practice use and care of such a garment was examined [16], though neither study considered recycling. The present study expands upon this research by conducting an LCA to evaluate the cradle-to-grave environmental impacts of a recycled wool blend sweater, investigating the contribution of this practice to reducing environmental impacts in the wool sweater market. ...
... A scenario analysis was conducted in which cumulative best practice consumer behaviour was modelled [scenario S6B of [16]]. Briefly, this included best practice washing frequency (14 wears per wash), washing load (2.1 kg), washing machine efficiency (0.1 kWh/kg, 43 L per load), drying regimes (50% outdoors and 50% in unheated rooms), and 200 wears by the first user (and no reuse). ...
... The most important parameter change was the number of wears, which under the standard scenario was 109 wears across first and second users. However, the number of wears by the first user under the best practice use and care scenario were half those modelled previously [16] in order to reflect the limited information available on consumer behaviours pertaining to garments made of recycled fibres. The garment end of life fates were consistent with those described above for a recycled wool blend sweater. ...
Article
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Wool recycling has been practiced commercially for more than 200 years. This study used data from established, commercial processes with the aim of determining the environmental impacts of a recycled wool blend garment and the contribution of recycling to reducing impacts on the market for wool sweaters, in comparison to other emission reduction approaches relating to garment use. A cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment showed impacts of 0.05 kg CO2-e, 0.63 MJ, 0.58 L H2O-e and 0.95 L per wear of a recycled wool blend sweater for climate change, fossil energy demand, water stress and freshwater consumption, respectively. Impacts predominantly arose from garment manufacturing and consumer practices (retail and garment care). When a recycled wool blend sweater was maintained with best practice garment use and care, impacts were reduced by 66–90% relative to standard maintenance of a virgin pure wool sweater. Increasing the closed-loop recycling rate to 50% had the potential to reduce impacts for the wool sweater market 7–24%, depending on the impact category. Brands and consumers hold the key to increasing recycling rates and reducing environmental impacts via increased donation of garments for recycling and increased adoption of garments containing recycled wool.
... Wool production is not only responsible for most of the GHGs emissions, but also to a large extent for Water stress, Freshwater consumption, and LO impacts (Wiedemann et al., 2020). According to Wiedemann et al. (2021), to the total GHGs of a wool sweater weighing 0.3 kg and used in Western Europe, fibre production contributed 57 %, manufacturing 29 %, and use phase 12 %. Use phase demonstrates to be a hotspot also for water stress (38 %) and fossil energy demand (30 %). ...
... Minimizing care practices (reduced use of machine dryer, using more efficient washing machines, washing less frequently) and specially maximizing use (reuse by multiple users and increased number of wears) leads to a decrease of up to 75 % of the impacts (Wiedemann et al., 2021). However, the impact of a wool garment depends mostly on the complexity of the supply chain, therefore on the selling-point localization, on the transportation mode and on the choice of the suppliers. ...
Article
Under the environmental perspective, textiles represent the fourth highest pressure commodity worldwide. In Europe, it is estimated that over 95 Mt of textile waste are generated along the entire supply chain, with still high percentages of textiles addressed to landfill or incineration. The present research, through a systematic literature review on textiles production and consumption, investigates their environmental concerns assessed through the application of the life cycle assessment. Considering the importance of identifying the products’ life cycle hotspots on which actions are needed to reduce the overall impact, the manuscript focuses on the environmental performance related to the cradle-to-grave phases of textile products differentiated by type, composition, and intended use. It results that the production and use phases are those responsible for the greatest share of negative impacts, while the end-of-life generally has a small contribution. Distribution and consumption phases are less investigated, and considering the emerging consumption patterns (e.g., sharing and renting platforms), it seems essential to collect data. Circular practices can bring benefits under the environmental perspective, but in-depth studies are still required to estimate the shift of impacts from one phase of the life cycle to another. Overall, there is a paucity of studies comparing the use of different fibers, ownership models, manufacturing and disposal processes for the same functional unit, or data that would be necessary for low-impact design. The topic is still under-researched among academics and practitioners of the textile industry.
... Yet, what is most important with this study is that it shows how the most influential factor in determining environmental impacts was the number of times each garment was used and for how long. Similarly, in another study comparing the best and worst case scenarios for use and care of a wool sweater, Wiedemann et al. (2021) found that garments reused by one or multiple users increased the lifespan of the garment and reduced its impacts by 25-28% across all indicators. The largest effects came from increasing the number of wears from 109 to 400 per garment, which decreased the environmental impacts by up to 68%. ...
... In addition, implementing the best care practices for prolonging the usable life of the sweater resulted in a 75% reduction in impacts across all indicators. Unsurprisingly, worst case scenarios increased impacts dramatically; for example, using the garment only once before disposal increased the greenhouse gas impacts over 100 times (Wiedemann et al., 2021). ...
Chapter
This chapter examines the limits to changing the current economic system through policy measures like green growth and the circular economy. We examine the biophysical aspects of the economy and the huge amounts of materials and energy the global economy consumes to achieve growth. Thus far, governmental responses have been incapable of addressing the underlying structural issues of the global textile industry and the accompanying exploitation of nature and peoples. While the necessary deep structural transformations are difficult to achieve through governmental policy change, we suggest that re-localisation of wool production-consumption networks is an expression of how engaged citizens can build more sustainable textile and fibre alternatives in place. Drawing on local food research, this chapter highlights the dangers of conflating local solutions with sustainability. Instead, we argue that assessing these emergent wool ventures based on how they are organised in the living landscape in specific places will enhance the understanding of what kind of socioecological impacts they can achieve. This includes how organising/connecting the activities and visions of wool entrepreneurs in place is essential if these ventures are going to be able to overcome the barriers set by the dominant growth-based system of global trade.KeywordsThe global textile industryWoolDegrowthBiophysical economySocial movements
... Their study found that the contribution to water stress varied less across the supply chain, with major contributions arising from production, processing, and garment use. Wiedemann et al. (2021) calculated the freshwater consumption as the total volume using the WSI (Pfister et al., 2009) and reported in liter water equivalents (H 2 O-e) (Ridoutt and Pfister, 2010) to assess the water stress of per wear of a Merino wool sweater in Western Europe. Chen et al. (2021) calculated and compared the water footprints of ten different cashmere products based on the WFN approach and the ISO 14046: 2014 standard and found that woven cashmere fabrics had a greater water footprint than knitted cashmere fabrics. ...
Article
The wool industry contributes significantly to water consumption and discharge pollutants through the long and complex production chain of wool products. To date, limited research has been conducted to account for and assess the water footprint of wool products, with majority of studies focusing on single or multiple products and enterprises. This study aims to address this knowledge gap by establishing a low-water footprint baseline to assess wool products. Based on the ISO 14046: 2014 standard, this paper proposes the concept of low-water footprint wool products and the grading assessment method, and combines the requirements of “Norm of Water Intake” and “Water Pollutant Discharge Standard” to select wool fabrics for the quantitative and evaluation of low-water footprint wool products. Results show that the scouring and dyeing stages are the two stages with the largest water scarcity footprint (WSF) and water eutrophication footprint (WFeu). The WSF is mainly generated by the consumption of freshwater resources, while the main source of WFeu is the discharge of wastewater pollutants, with total nitrogen contributing the most, followed by ammonia nitrogen and chemical oxygen demand. The low-water footprint scores vary greatly from company to company due to different conditions such as production equipment and processing processes. Establishing the low-water footprint baseline for wool products can better leverage the quantification and evaluation tools to certify wool products with a low-water footprint.
... Even if it is rarely assessed, the use phase is also having a major impact, contributing over 60% for some of the impacts assessed, such as human, marine, and freshwater toxicity. However, it is also the life cycle stage the most determining in reducing the environmental impact (Wiedemann et al. 2021). Indeed, according to Mistra Future Fashion (2019), multiplying the lifetime of a garment, originally intended, by 2 will reduce its climate impact by half. ...
Thesis
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The aim of the research is to provide a solution for addressing the overproduction problem in the textiles industry, being the root of their consequent carbon footprint and environmental impacts. The problem analysis chapter deal with the linear growth of this sector and is followed by an overview of its adverse impacts on the environment and people globally. Then, the chapter continues by analysing the over-reliance of the textile brands on the concept of a circular economy. Several circular practices and their efficiency are reviewed. The problem arising from this chapter lies in the limitations of a circular economy to alleviate environmental impacts if continuous growth is not addressed jointly. Consequently, the problem analysis concludes that a sustainable and circular system for the textile industry cannot occur in a growth-driven model. Degrowth is identified as a potential solution, and the research target how can such a new economic paradigm could be reflected at the business level in the textile industry. Emerging from the problem analysis and statement, the research question is framed and is as follows: How can textile companies shift towards a business model approaching degrowth with the purpose to build a sustainable future for the industry? Several subquestions are shaped to support the research question: • How a degrowth economic system could look like and what are its principles? • What are the principles of a business model approaching degrowth? • How can these principles be implemented in textile companies? • To what extent can the European policies support this transition? For the purpose of answering these different subquestions, several methods are being used. A conceptual framework giving 15 principles of economic organisation for a system fitting with degrowth is reviewed. Subsequently, a state-of-the-art the current state of knowledge about the principles used to design business models approaching de-growth is performed. The state-of-the-art reflects on 5 different papers touching upon characteristics for a degrowth business model. Based on the information gathered in the state-of-the-art, a framework for business approaching degrowth is conceptualized, summarizing principles for business model aligning with degrowth. As a result, this framework can be used as a tool to assess the compatibility of several brands with de-growth. Interview and critical analysis have been conducted to o er an assessment of 3 different brands. As the last step, policy development in regard to the textile industry is reviewed and criticised upon its relevance for supporting a shift of business model towards degrowth. The research demonstrates the applicability of degrowth in a business model, as well as its feasibility. Indeed, the brands assessed showed compatibility and alignment with each principle defined in the framework. Furthermore, the research highlighted certain key principles to facilitate a shift towards a business model approaching degrowth. Finally , the current policy development at the European level has been deemed insuficient to leverage this shift.
Chapter
In this last chapter, we will summarise with a view to the future, to a possible (textile) fibre diet that is compatible with the Earth’s Planetary Boundaries and that works with nature, not against it. Instead of the constant cry for innovation and technological solutions, we will show how ‘old knowledge’ can be leveraged to solve the current wicked problems and crises we are facing, and how we can live better with less. Through the methods developed for wardrobe studies, we will highlight how we have something to learn from the food sector and a large international collaboration initiated by the EAT Foundation. We will also show how the sustainable fashion focus has attacked the dessert before even addressing the appetiser. Building on the critique we have already brought forward of the ‘circular economy’ solutions and the belief that fashion is an everchanging driver for constant newness—we will offer a new ‘fibre diet’. In our daily lives, we must develop meaningful relationships with our wardrobes through taking the time to value them, through care and wear.KeywordsNatural fibresWoolTextile designLocalismSlow fashionPlanetary boundariesKnowledge buildingWardrobe
Chapter
The Norwegian research project KRUS has rebooted local wool value chains, and changed the focus on raw materials, fuelled an interest in local yarns and contributed with innovation and value creation. In addition, KRUS aimed to shift the discussion around sustainable fashion. This chapter is based on the KRUS report and the project’s PhD and Master’s thesis findings, adding some recent developments. The chapter explains how the project results were brought about and how media-interest was leveraged, thus mushrooming even more activity after the project ended. However, first and foremost the chapter discusses how cooperation has dwarfed the focus on competitiveness—challenging the market economy’s main purpose and ‘raison d’être’.KeywordsLocal clothingWoolIndigenous sheep breedsArtisan knowledgeTextile industry
Chapter
Comparing fibres in the discussion surrounding environmental issues has for many years been a numbers game where the aim has been to set them up against each other in order to cherry-pick which fibre is the best to use to save the Planet. Counter-intuitively, natural fibres have received the lowest scores and synthetic fibres have stood out as the ‘winners’. For wool, this has meant spending time, money and effort to disprove that this is the case. Today, one of the most used tools is the Higg Index; and in this tool’s Material Science Index (MSI) the fibres have been ranked for a long time with a single score. Here silk, alpaca, cow leather, cotton and wool had the highest (worst) scores; while polyester and recycled polyester held the best scores. In this chapter we unpack the background for these tools, and how they are being criticised. There is little public knowledge surrounding this discussion, and balancing the information we unpack, is in many ways time-sensitive as the now privately owned Higg Co. is in dialogue with the affected fibre organisations.
Article
Cotton jeans with huge market demand have a great potential negative impact on the ecological environment, especially in terms of climate change and water depletion. Given the complexity and difficulty of carbon and water footprints assessment in the textile sector due to the plethora of material varieties and life cycle processes involved, previous researchers have embraced process modularity (i.e., decompose life cycle processes into components) as an auxiliary technique. Although modularity enhances overall flexibility and assessment efficiency, a holistic view is missing for the comprehensive consideration of both product production and consumption processes. Moreover, extant studies only take a limited or even a single manufacturing process as a case demonstration, rather than examining the applicability of the modular method throughout the product life cycle. It is therefore unclear how the interaction and assembly of different process modules will unfold when multiple stages are involved. Accordingly, this study extended the research boundary to the whole life cycle of textile products, and verified the feasibility and practicality of the method with a computational case study of a pair of cotton jeans. The results showed that the total impacts of carbon footprint, water scarcity footprint, water eutrophication footprint and water ecotoxicity footprint were 90.37 kg CO2 eq, 13.74 m³ H2O eq, 1.67 × 10⁻² kg PO4³⁻ eq and 112.41 m³ H2O eq respectively; and finishing, cotton cultivation and laundering processes were major contributors to these environmental impacts. The study also demonstrated how different cotton jeans parameter values from the life cycle affect the carbon and water footprints through sensitivity analysis. Furthermore, based on the decomposed modules, 12 common use patterns in China were discussed, which confirmed the superiority of the modular method without recalculation from scratch. The scenario analysis revealed that a combination of top loader machine washing and line drying once a month without ironing for cotton jeans within a two-year lifespan was the most promising alternative. The results obtained in this study can provide methodological and technical guidance for follow-up research and application. In the future, other product categories and impact indicators can be integrated into the modular method.
Article
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Clothing maintenance is necessary for keeping clothing and textiles functional and socially acceptable, but it has environmental consequences due to the use of energy, water and chemicals. This article discusses whether clothes made of different materials are cleaned in different ways and have different environmental impacts. It fills a knowledge gap needed in environmental assessments that evaluate the impacts based on the function of a garment by giving detailed information on the use phase. The article is based on a quantitative wardrobe survey and qualitative laundry diary data from China, Germany, Japan, the UK and the USA. The largest potential for environmental improvement exists in reducing laundering frequency and in the selection of washing and drying processes, and through a transition to fibres that are washed less frequently, such as wool. Adopting best practice garment care would give larger benefits in countries like the US where the consumption values were the highest, mainly due to extensive use of clothes dryers and less efficient washing machines combined with frequent cleaning. These variations should be considered in environmental assessments of clothing and when forming sustainability policies. The results indicate the benefits of focusing future environmental work on consumer habits and culture and not only technologies.
Article
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Increasing the use of each product, most often called longer lifespans, is an effective environmental strategy. This article discusses how garment lifespans can be described in order to be measured and compared. It answers two sub-questions: (1) what to measure (units), and (2) how to measure (methods). We introduce and define terms related to clothing lifespans and contribute to discussions about an appropriate functional unit for garments in life cycle assessments (LCA) and other environmental accounting tools. We use a global wardrobe survey to exemplify the units and methods. Clothing lifespans can be described and measured in years, the number of wears, cleaning cycles, and users. All have an independent value that show different and central aspects of clothing lifespans. A functional unit for LCAs should emphasise both the number of wears for all users as well as the service lifespan in years. Number of wears is the best measure for regular clothing, while number of years is most suited for occasion wear, because it is important to account for the need of more garments to cover all the relevant occasions during a specified time period. It is possible to study lifespan via carefully constructed surveys, providing key data relating to actual garment use.
Article
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PurposeThe textiles industry is a substantial contributor to environmental impacts through the production, processing, use, and end-of-life of garments. Wool is a high value, natural, and renewable fibre that is used to produce a wide range of garments, from active leisure wear to formal wear, and represents a small segment of the global fashion industry. Woollen garments are produced by long, global value chains extending from the production of ‘greasy’ wool on sheep farms, through processing to garment make-up, retail, consumer use, and end-of-life. To date, there have been limited life cycle assessment (LCA) studies on the environmental impacts of the full supply chain or use phase of garments, with the majority of wool LCA studies focusing on a segment of the supply chain. This study aimed to address this knowledge gap via a cradle-to-grave LCA of a woollen garment.Methods This study investigated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, fossil fuel energy, and water stress associated with the production, use, and end-of-life of a lightweight woollen sweater (300-g wool), together with inventory results for freshwater consumption and land occupation. Primary datasets were used for the wool production and wool processing stages, while primary datasets relating to consumer garment use were supplemented with literature data. Impacts were calculated and reported per garment wear event.Results and discussionImpacts per wear were 0.17 (± 0.02) kg CO2-e GHG, 0.88 (± 0.18) MJ fossil energy, and 0.96 (± 0.42) H2O-e water stress. Fossil fuel energy was dominated by wool processing, with substantial contributions of energy also arising from retail and garment care. Greenhouse gas emissions from wool production (farming) contributed the highest proportion of impacts, followed by lower contributions from processing and garment care. Contributions to water stress varied less across the supply chain, with major contributions arising from production, processing, and garment use.Conclusions Opportunities to improve the efficiency of production, processing, and garment care exist, which could also reduce resource use and impacts from wool. However, the number of garment wear events and length of garment lifetime was found to be the most influential factor in determining garment impacts. This indicated that consumers have the largest capacity to influence the sustainability of their woollen garments by maximising the active garment lifespan which will reduce overall impacts.
Article
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Washing machines have in recent years incorporated programmes that are very energy- and water-efficient, but this entails a long programme duration, often beyond 4 h. These are also the programmes that the manufactures use to define, test and declare the overall water and energy efficiency of the machines. In response to these developments, there is evidence that consumers are reluctant to use excessively lengthy programmes, even if they are aware that the programmes are more energy-efficient. This paper analyses this divergence of programme offer and programme use, which jeopardises the energy efficiency policy objectives for these appliances in the European Union (EU). The paper explores several policy measures to address this divergence, discussed in the context of the revision of the Ecodesign and Energy Labelling regulations that apply to washing machines in the EU. Three different measures are studied: the provision of information about the programme duration on the energy label, the inclusion of time as an intrinsic parameter of the energy efficiency index calculations and the setting of a programme duration cap. The paper concludes that introducing programme duration as an additional parameter of the energy efficiency index would result in the highest energy savings. However, this scenario is associated with significant uncertainties since competition among the manufacturers for a better energy label classification will not solely focus on energy efficiency aspects, and the outcome of such competition is unclear. The other two measures investigated are less effective but would also deliver savings. A programme duration cap would bring energy savings if consumers are aware of their existence and select the now shorter yet energy-efficient programmes more often. The provision of programme duration information on the energy label would also be effective but requires that consumers are able to correctly understand it.
Article
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This work highlights recent developments in understanding human body odour with particular attention to natural fibres used in next-to-skin textiles: fibre type and fabric structure affecting patterns of adsorption and release of volatile organic compounds known as contributing to body odour; methods for detection and judging intensity of odour; and effects of environmental pressures which impinge on cleaning textiles and its efficacy. That the type of fibre has a dominant effect on adsorption and release of volatile organic compounds is a common finding from multiple and varied investigations. Ranking body odour retained in textiles from least intense to most intense—wool, cotton, polyester/polyamide—is reasonably consistent irrespective of method. Blends of different fibres and re-use/up-cycling warrant investigation with respect to adsorption and release of volatile organic compounds.
Technical Report
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Regardless of the life cycle stage, all products and services inevitably produce an impact on the environment. By identifying critical issues present in the life cycle of products and taking constructive response actions in practice, the European Integrated Product Policy (IPP) aims to reduce the environmental impacts of products and to improve their performances with a "life cycle thinking". The first action taken under IPP was to identify the market products contribute most to the environmental impacts in Europe. Completed in May 2006 by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), the Environmental Impact of Products (EIPRO) study was conducted from a life cycle perspective. The EIPRO study indentified food and drink, transport and private housing as the highest areas of impact. Together they account for 70–80 % of the environmental impact of consumption. Of the remaining areas, clothing dominated across all impact categories with a contribution of 2–10 %. While initially analysing the current life cycle impacts of products, studies on the Environmental Improvement of Products (IMPRO) have been developed in order to identify technically and socioeconomically feasible means of improving the environmental performance of products. As identified by the EIPRO study as a priority group which makes a significant contribution to environmental impacts in Europe, textile products are the focus of this study. The main objectives of this study are to: - identify the market share and consumption of textile products in the EU-27; - estimate and compare the potential environmental impacts of textile products consumed in the EU-27, taking into account the entire value chain (life cycle) of these products; - identify the main environmental improvement options and estimate their potential; - assess the socioeconomic impacts of the identified options.
Article
Although polyethylene terephthalate (PET) fibers comprise the largest single fiber type used in the global textile community, recycling of dyed PET-based fabric is limited, resulting in the disposal of considerable amounts of PET fabric in landfills every year. Because PET does not readily biodegrade, interest in recycling some or all of the dyed textiles derived from this substrate is of interest. A step toward achieving this vision was investigated in this study, namely the development of an effective decolorization process. In this study, sodium formaldehyde sulfoxylate (SFS) was employed to decolorize disperse dyes developed for PET and it was found effective for decolorizing C.I. Disperse Yellow 42, C.I. Disperse Orange 30, and C.I. Disperse Blue 56 in water/acetone media and the process was extended to the decolorization of dyed PET fabric. An optimized combination of treatment time (30 min), water to acetone ratio (1:2), SFS concentration (10 g/L), temperature (100 °C), and liquor ratio (50/1) was found to give good color removal for a range of well-known and widely used disperse dye types. Fabric strength assessments were also investigated and it was found that SFS decolorization had no influence on PET strength, as judged by intrinsic viscosity and bursting strength measurements. It was also found that the acetone component of the decolorization medium could be recovered and reused.
Article
During use, textile items can develop unpleasant odors that arise from many different sources, both internal and external to the human body. Laundering is not always effective at removing odors, with odor potentially building up over time due to incomplete removal of soils and odorous compounds and/or malodors transferred during the laundering process. Textile odor can lead to consumer dissatisfaction, particularly as there are high expectations that clothing and textile products meet multiple aesthetic and functional needs. The problem of odor in textiles is complex and multi-faceted, with odorous volatile compounds, microorganisms, and precursors to odor, such as sweat, being transferred to, and retained by, fabrics. This article reviews the literature that specifically relates to odor within textiles. Methods for evaluating odor in textiles, including methods for collecting odor on textile substrates, as well as sensory and instrumental methods of odor detection, were reviewed. Literature that examined differences among fabrics that varied by fabric properties were reviewed. As well, the effectiveness of specific odor controlling finishing technologies to control malodor within textiles was also examined.
Article
Cotton is one of the primary resources in many modern industries and with increasing demand rates the current challenge is to find other sources of cotton production with lower prices and higher quality whereas cotton produced only by agriculture is not sufficient for these needs. This is focused on developing a new strategy to make the textile waste a new sustainable source of recovered cotton to face this shortage. This strategy is summarized as development of a chemical technology using sustainable and commercial chemicals to recover cotton from waste textile. The technology consists of three sequential processes: a) textile dye leaching using Nitric Acid as a pretreatment of the original waste, b) dissolution process using Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) as the main treatment to dissolve the organic materials from the treated fabric, including polyester and remaining organic part from textile dyes, and c) bleaching process using sodium hypochlorite and diluted hydrochloric acid for final recovered cotton purification. Preliminary experiments were performed at a laboratory scale to determine the optimum conditions on a few grams of two different types of denim fabric. To simulate the pilot scale, the main experimental work was conducted for full-size blue and black waste jeans trousers in a developed reactor with capacity 1 kg based on the preliminary experimental results. To close the lifecycle loop of the suggested strategy, rotary evaporator was used to extract the polymeric part and regenerate the spent DMSO, while the acid was regenerated by activated carbon. Additionally, suggestions on treatment of the water contaminated by acid and solvent (obtained after washing) were given. Morphology, thermal behavior, and chemical structure of the recovered cotton, regenerated acid, solvent, and recovered polyester were investigated. Based on the recycling rate (93%), profitability (1466 $/ tonne), greenhouse gas emissions (-1,534 CO2-eq/ tonne), and sustainability assessment, the developed strategy can be seen as a high-potential approach for recovery of cotton.