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Fashion innovators are looking for sustainable ways to make clothes.


Fast fashion is fun for many people because it's a cheap way to keep up with the trends, but it comes at a heavy price for the environment. It turns out that fashion has become one of the most polluting industries in the world, but some innovators are looking for ways to change that. NPR's Iman Maani has this report.

IMAN MAANI, BYLINE: A lot of clothing that gets tossed out ends up in landfills or gets incinerated. And the problem's only gotten worse due to demand for cheap, trendy and disposable clothing.

TING CHI: The production is growing. The consumption is growing. The amount of textile apparel disposed of every year has continued to grow.

MAANI: That's Ting Chi, who chairs the Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles at Washington State University. Entrepreneurs and designers are now looking to circular design to reduce the industry's impact on the environment.

CHI: When people started designing a product, they already think about the whole life cycle of the product.

MAANI: That includes reusing materials to keep them from becoming waste. Ambercycle in downtown LA is helping to turn discarded clothing into yarn.

SHAY SETHI: We collect material from all different sorts of places - secondhand clothing stores, companies that have material that they are going to normally send to landfill.

MAANI: Ambercycle co-founder Shay Sethi says the clothing goes into a machine that breaks down the fabric.

SETHI: Old clothing gets fed in. The process takes about two hours at about the temperature it takes to cook a pizza. And the output is a chip or a resin. So when you want to make a yarn, you buy this resin, and you spin yarn from it.

MAANI: Sethi says he and Ambercycle co-founder Moby Ahmed cooked up the idea when they were in college.

SETHI: We just had the question, you know, what happens to this bag of T-shirts that I'm ready to donate?

MAANI: Sethi says the process goes beyond traditional recycling.

SETHI: In order to achieve circularity for fashion, the process of converting an end-of-life garment to new yarns needs to be re-imagined. In traditional recycling, the quality of the material is slightly reduced each time it's recycled. The world we want to live in is one in which that material does not lose any quality in that process of regenerating.

MAANI: Sethi says for now, Ambercycle can only do this with polyester, but the company is looking to expand it to other materials. If you're thinking of sending in your own clothes, Sethi says, hold off.

SETHI: Please do not send us any more stuff. We have too much stuff. But it's - yeah, but people somehow find our address and send us stuff.

MAANI: Iman Maani, NPR News, Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Iman Maani
Iman Maani is a production assistant on Morning Edition and Up First. She began her journalism career at Member station NCPR in Canton, New York. She has also worked on the political docu-series, Power Trip, that covered the midterm elections. Iman is a graduate from St. Lawrence University.