Europe’s landfills are bursting at the seams with discarded clothing and other textiles. Of the 5.8 million tonnes of textiles that EU consumers alone discard every year, only a quarter is recycled and only 1% is recycled into new fibres for clothing with the non-reusable fraction being mostly downcycled into industrial rags, upholstery filling and insulation, or is incinerated or landfilled.
According to the United Nations the fashion industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions, is the second largest consumer of water worldwide and accounts for 20% of industrial wastewater. While the environmental impacts of aviation are well known, the fashion industry uses more energy, generates more emissions and is a greater polluter than all international aviation and maritime shipping combined.
It is a global issue, contributing factors include over supply, over consumption, widespread use of toxic dyes and chemicals, and a lack of sustainable infrastructure to manage, process and transform unwanted or end-of life clothing, footwear, and accessories.
The Circular Bioeconomy Research Group (CIRCBIO) at Munster Technological University (MTU) is recognised as a national leader in bioeconomy research, education, and the promotion of circular economy principles. One of the groups’ key thematic pillars of education and outreach activity is targeted at second level audiences.
HABERDASHERY is a two-day programme where senior cycle students redesign, reimagine, repurpose, and reuse clothing, footwear, bags, and accessories incorporating biobased and renewable materials, 3D printing capabilities, sustainable processes, and shorter supply chains. A key focus is on developing an understanding of the circular economy and how it interacts with the EU (European Union) Green Deal, the United Nation 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and Ireland’s Climate Action Plan.
Over 100 students took part in the HABERDASHERY programme which included sessions with guest speakers Don O’Neill international fashion designer, Paul Galvin clothing brand founder, Aisling Byrne of tech platform nuwardrobe.com and co-founder of 3D printing company WAZP.io Mariana Kobal. Additionally, two young Irish entrepreneurs shared their business story with the programme participants. James Greaney of Dingle based company skyscraper.com who provide sustainable clothing ranges and products made from renewable hemp crops. The founder of cleansneaksirl.com Aaron Redmond outlined his unique service that reinvigorates and reimagines sports footwear extending product lifecycle using biobased products and organic dyes.
HABERDASHERY programme designer Eve Savage said “We want to bring the vocabulary of the circular and bioeconomy into the everyday vernacular, especially for our young students embarking on decision making about their future careers. At the very heart of the programme is the core aim to develop transversal skills such as teamwork, creativity, problem solving and communication that are so valuable to industry and society.” Twenty-seven teams from four schools engaged in a range of tasks including creating virtual design boards using the MURAL interactive platform, report writing and generating social media posts for their products and services. Students were introduced to a variety of innovative future focused companies who are utilizing design creativity and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) to transform the fashion industry as we know it. “Young people today hear a lot of negative messaging about climate that leaves them feeling powerless – we want to flip that on its head and promote the possibilities that science and technology provide to benefit society, the economy, and the planet” Eve said.
100 student participants attended an awards ceremony at Kerry Sports Academy, MTU to receive their certification and prizes presented by guest speaker Paul Galvin and Dr. Helena McMahon – Director Irelands Knowledge Centre for Carbon, Climate and Community Action (IKC3) at MTU states.
“The need to progress to a more sustainable fashion ecosystem is now at a point of urgency and is accepted. This has had the most amazing positive impact of stimulating huge levels of innovation to reimagine how designers approach fashion design and production all framed through the lens of sustainability and circularity. This has led to the development of new biobased and sustainable materials, considerations on repair, reuse, upgrading, sharing and end of life powered by technologies and new business models.
“Companies have very much woken up to the issues and are acting right across their supply chains to embrace and deploy these fresh novel innovations and are looking toemerging talent and start-ups for cutting edge solutions. There is huge opportunity for new high-tech careers in the fashion industry where sustainability and STEAM skills are essential, and this is what underpins the HABERDASHERY program and why the IKC3 has supported this development in collaboration with the CIRCBIO Research Group at MTU.
Following the success of the HABERDASHERY programme, THE DASH is a follow-on collaboration between MTU and Keohane Athletic Club teaching second level students about the importance of re-designing and re-using existing materials. The student team from Presentation Listowel will breathe new life into Keohane Athletic dead stock making new products and extending product life.
Paul Galvin said “MTU is doing such valuable work by generating awareness about circularity in terms of textile use and general lifestyle and I am delighted to work alongside their team promoting circular design and educating our young changemakers of the future.”