The world defines its sophistication with three Cs - class, culture and clothes.

Among the three Cs, clothes have begun to define both class and culture. Clothes are also something which many have in excess and yet it seems like there is a serious dearth of garments. However, in the race to meet the demand for clothing, brands are relying on fast fashion. This fast fashion has not only resulted in overconsumption of clothes, but has also caused scarcity of raw material like cotton.

There is mounting pressure on textile industry to clean up its act, which has proven hazardous to the environment. With numerous sectors advocating recycling of used products, this option has also surfaced in the textile sector. Recycled cotton is a ray of hope that can alter the notion that textile sector does little to nothing about environment issues.

Inevitable cotton shortage

Demand for cotton has always been high, as it is one of the less expensive natural fabrics. According to the USDA report, global 2014-15 cotton production was around 119.2 million bales, which was one per cent below that 2013-14.

In 2014-15 cotton's global consumption growth rate dipped down to 1.7 per cent from earlier the estimate of 2.5 per cent, following less consumer demand. However, South and Southeast Asia displayed robust growth. The raw cotton prices stabilised in 2014-15, following which cotton spinners are now benefitting from favourable conditions. Moreover, cotton consumption growth in 2015-16 has been smooth unlike in 2014-15. Apart from China, consumption in India and Pakistan is anticipated to increase by three per cent, to 5.6 million tons and 2.6 million tons, respectively. These three countries alone account for 64 per cent of total world's cotton consumption.

Cotton consumption was high prior to recession in comparison to post-recession consumption. Global cotton consumption is likely to grow by two per cent and reach 25 million tons by the end of 2015-2016, according to ICAC. Consumption is further estimated to reach 7.7 million tons approximately, which is far below the ten million tons mark in the mid 2000s.

According to statistics from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, consumption of clothes in 2010 was 69.7 million tonnes, which is up from 47.4 million tonnes just a decade earlier. These statistics translated to about 10 kg of clothes per person in 2013. Even though cotton consumption has slightly reduced, but this is only a temporary phase. Cotton is used in combination with other rich natural as well as man-made fibres, which makes it indispensable. In addition to this, high cotton consumption will lead to severe cotton scarcity in near future. Recycled cotton fibre will be a must during the crisis.

Wastage redemption

An average person throws away 70 pounds of clothing annually, which adds up to 3.8 billion pounds of avoidable waste. "Until now old clothes have often been used as filler material for underneath wall-to-wall carpeting, but when the carpeting is removed or the building is knocked down, the material goes to the landfill anyway," says Lewis Perkins, senior vice president of the San Francisco-based Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, which develops sustainable new uses for discarded products.