How making it British Can Reduce Textile Waste

“Every day that goes by in which we don’t do something about it [climate change] is a day wasted”, said David Attenborough, ahead of the 2021 COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. “Every month that passes, it [climate change] becomes more and more incontrovertible.” With the UK being the third largest producer of waste in the world, with around 140 million worth of textile waste sent to landfill each year, it is clear the UK textile industry is undergoing a crisis of excess. By this, I mean, the British fashion industry is suffering an unnecessary failure regarding disposable goods, consumer trends and the production of natural fibres. With the climate crisis becoming near to irreparable, the synergy between our desire for a sustainable future and our current environmental challenges must be taken seriously.

The world consumes 80 billion items of clothing a year, with the fast fashion industry worth 1.2 trillion dollars. While our modern landscape has developed a new understanding of ecological existence, the British fashion industry is ultimately overdue in its efforts towards sustainable justice. With the production of natural fibres under pressure, our consideration towards the future of textiles production must focus on ‘making it British’, as exports of homemade textiles are no longer a longstanding, feasible output for the environment. Ultimately, to move forward with our sustainable approaches we must indeed look back and engage with our past histories. As an industry that is not shy of controversy, we must encourage a new ‘climate beneficial’ business. Past lessons can inform our futures sustainable innovation and this, along with local manufacturing chains, will help curb the growth of waste. The future of fashion is circular and nothing reinforces this more than British grown, British loved textiles.

The Government Environmental Audit Committee recently announced plans to work closely with major fashion chains to reduce plastic waste and encourage recycling, along with a ban on dumping clothes in landfill. These are two key actions where increasing usage of natural fibres, such as British wool, can make a real difference. British wool, which is not a fast fibre, is a key way forward for sustainable textiles in the UK. But how do we navigate an industry which relies heavily on exports for profit? And how does ‘making it British’ really reduce textile waste?

In terms of the contemporary fashion market, the regeneration of British wool supports a circular economy whereby textile fibres can be recycled, reused and reduced. By keeping farming, manufacturing, consumerism and recycling on a continuous, limited cycle we are not only reintroducing and respecting British agricultural tradition, but encouraging a wider move away from the traditional linear trajectory of the clothing industry. Instead, the focus is on longevity and biodegradable alternatives. Ultimately, when brands manufacture clothing locally, lead times are less and there’s less guesswork involved in the buying process. As a result, minimum orders are lowered and factories are not churning out thousands of units no one wants to purchase. This is why Yan Tan believe in small production runs from our factory in Leicester, UK that aim to sell through, meaning no waste and a lowered carbon footprint.

British wool, known for its durability is a renewable and recyclable fibre source, which helps isolate carbon form our atmosphere into the soil. Products made from synthetic fibres are made up of materials that aren’t recyclable or biodegradable. However as wool breaks down naturally and does not cause any environmental hazards, this means textile waste is minimised and regenerated back into the earth. From farm, to wardrobe, to earth. Safely.

As we continue to evolve as an industry, it is obvious our narrative must emphasise innovative, sustainable action. Here at Yan Tan, inciting positive change means respecting a British institution, whilst encouraging forward change. Sustainability, transparency and craft are the pillars of our movement, designed to support the British wool industry and encourage climate action. So, to ‘make it British’, means to support ecological and agricultural success.