Waste-me-not Symposium by LCF PhD Research hub
On Tuesday 16 November, the LCF PhD Research hub hosted an exclusive event, ‘Waste-me-not Symposium’, exploring whether waste can be permanently designed out of the fashion lifecycle.
As the fashion industry and consumers alike are becoming increasingly aware of its damaging impact on the environment, stakeholders from all sides of the fashion spectrum are seeking new and innovative solutions towards reducing the industries environmental footprint. The issue of waste within the fashion and textile supply chain is arguably among one of the largest areas of impact and can take many forms such as material waste (pre-consumer and post-consumer), water waste, chemical waste, energy consumption and agricultural waste.
The inaugural Waste-me-not Symposium witnessed a range of inspiring and promising research that focused on various areas of sustainability: pre-to post-consumer strategies; textile-oriented or construction-oriented approaches; analogue methods; digital platforms; and material, business or cultural perspectives.
The 11 speakers were divided into 3 panels under 3 interconnected themes: Material Waste, Circular Strategies and Social, Cultural and Political Perspectives. LCF PhD, LCF MA and UAL Postdoctoral research was presented, as well as external research from Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand and the Dutch company i-did. The research contexts showed a diverse range of geographical locations (Sweden, UK, Spain, Rwanda, Pushkar in India, The Netherlands), which prompted debate on the blanket use of terminology and concluded with the imperative that solutions must be specific to local environments.
Raw Casein Fibres by Marie Stenton
In the first panel which explored Material Waste, approaches were incorporated from beyond the textile/fashion industry to explore value from alternative waste streams such as food industry waste. This made us consider what other waste streams could be utilised (from a local perspective) to add to the textile value chain as a whole.
Both panels looking at Material Waste and Social, Cultural and Political Perspectives, explored historical and future-orientated solutions. The findings presented indicated that we have known about such large-scale issues for many decades and on some level, had the tools to do more about it. This leaves us with the question: why hasn’t more been done historically and how can we use this knowledge to better our future?
In the Circular Strategies panel, recycling was approached from post-consumer and industry perspectives, including the idea of ‘design for disassembly’. We heard about practical frameworks and in the third panel, the applicability of these ideas across different cultures were considered.
The presentations for Social, Cultural and Political Perspectives, offered an interesting synergy in terms of consumption habits and the different effects of (and perspectives on) second-hand clothing in different areas of the world. This provided a great example of how one solution does not fit all circumstances and the discussion concluded that we must find local solutions to problems using locally available resources, tools and skills which reflect the needs of that community.
Material dyed with waste food by Marie Stenton
There was a general contrast in approaches to the problem of waste from a technical and an earth/biological perspective. Overall, it was respected that there is no single ‘right’ answer that will fix this global issue. We must work together, share our resources and our solutions.
Responsibility (in terms of implementing sustainable solutions on a global scale) was identified as a collective effort – we must all play our part in reducing our personal consumption, but more must be done by businesses and governments to implement large scale changes and reduce waste across the supply chain.
Across all 3 panels, we heard from a range of disruptive and innovative approaches such as 3D design and manufacturing software which offered a different perspective on SME business models and the reduction of pre-consumer waste within the fashion and textile industry. This, in contrast to approaches such as ‘design for disassembly’, which encourages the recyclability of a garment from the design stage, offers insight into how waste can be reduced at various stages of the supply chain and exemplifies how responsibility can be shared across industry stakeholders.
It also suggests that there is more research/work to be done in the way that we engage with waste at the end of the lifecycle and recapture material value to put back into the system at various levels. We noted that all the research not only identifies problems - that we are all aware of - but is thoroughly and consistently investigating solutions to the problems in creative, innovative and sophisticated ways.
As this symposium was born from the desire to open a more approachable platform for research students and fresh alumni to communicate their research, we hope that a second iteration of the Waste-me-not symposium to happen and extend this community in the future and possibly across many institutions.
We are hopeful that this symposium fosters the dissemination of alternative solutions for the big problems of waste, as well establishes new networks and meeting points for practitioners and researchers.