Planet Aid Partner Garson & Shaw Releases Comprehensive Report on the Circular Textile Industry in the Americas

New Circular Textile Industry Report Findings

Planet Aid partner and global wholesaler, Garson & Shaw, recently released the report, “Promoting the Circular Textile Industry: A Call for Strategic Policy Action in the Americas" on June 24, 2024 . The ten-page document, available online, takes an urgent look at the textile industries’ overproduction, the consumer’s overconsumption, textile waste, and the harsh environmental impacts these matters inflict on the planet. The textile industry is currently the fourth most environmentally damaging industry in the global economy following food, housing, and transportation.

textile waste (1)

Divided into eight sections, the report also covers the structure of the secondhand clothing (SHC) industry in the U.S. and globally, the economic opportunity in the U.S. and Central America, and the policy action to incentivize circularity in the textile value chain, and more.

American Consumerism and Textile Waste

The report focuses heavily on the U.S. because America purchases 7.7 billion fast fashion items annually. The breakdown of these numbers is an astounding 148 million items per week. Perhaps, just as important—1.6 billion items of clothes remain unworn, translating to wasted resources like water and energy, and higher carbon emissions from production and transport.

overflow of clothes

According to Garson & Shaw’s report, 32 percent of Generation Z buy items at least once a week, and 6 percent admit to buying something every day. This overconsumption of fast fashion is promoted and marketed heavily on social media, with advertising, celebrities, and influencers emphasizing what’s trending. Regrettably, what’s in today is out tomorrow. Subsequently, enormous sums of textile waste are landfilled.

Garson and Shaw’s survey data quotes an annual total of 5.5 million tons of reusable items thrown in the trash by consumers. Organizations like Planet Aid provide options for textile recycling and reuse; however, only a small portion of clothing is reused or recycled in most industrialized economies. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates only 15 percent is recycled or reused in America.


Advancing a Circular Economy

Surely, the textile waste dilemma is not an impossible challenge. Garson and Shaw’s report states, “Advancing a circular economy and maximizing clothing reuse across the Americas requires promoting the strategically vital secondhand industry.” The report also shows that the average adult has 6.2. items of unused clothes in their closets, if these items were to enter the SHC market and replace new purchases, it would prevent 255, 747 metric tons of waste from going to the landfill each year, plus 458, 307 metric tons of clothes from being incinerated every year, and save 3 million Olympic sized swimming pools of water.

Promoting the urgency of reducing needless consumption, and personal environmental stewardship in shopping are goalposts, and the good news is the SHC industry is growing within the U.S. If the trend continues, the research states that the U.S. will reduce carbon emissions by 167 million metric tons, which is a number spanning from 2023 to 2033. It’s the equivalent of removing over 40 million gasoline-fueled cars from the road for one year.

Read more in Garson & Shaw’s Promoting the Circular Textile Industry report, and consider your role as a change agent in consumption reduction and  circular textile reuse.