Fur’s Potential to Fix All That is Wrong with the Fashion Industry
May 07, 2019 by Vladislava Gospodinova
After the EU banned the use of single-plastic in hope to curb plastic pollution, policymakers now need to look beyond throwaway plastic items and acknowledge the global need to make the fashion industry – a major polluter - more sustainable. Recent estimation shows that clothing makes up between 2 % and 10% of the environmental impact of EU consumption. With European consumers buying almost 40 % more clothes than decades ago due to low prices and growing online shopping, the number of unwanted clothes filling up landfills also grows. UN data shows that as much as 85 % of textiles end up in landfills, which raises another question - what happens to our clothes once they are there. When it comes to natural fur and its alternatives, a scientific test conducted at Organic Waste Systems, a laboratory in Ghent, Belgium, proves that real fur is biodegradable, but the case is not the same for its artificial replacement–faux fur. The lab experiment analysed the so-called anaerobic biodegradation or, in other words, how fake fur and real fur degrade in a landfill without oxygen, which is where most discarded clothes end up. “We assessed the biodegradation of natural fur and fake fur, which is a conventional plastic. It allows us to see what the impact is on the environment. As expected the bacteria were able to consume the real fur, so there is biodegradation. On the contrary, the bacteria were not able to consume fake fur. In practice it means that when the fake fur reaches the landfill, it will just sit there,” said Lies Debeer, a researcher at OWS. According to the researchers, the lack of biodegradation in the fake fur is not surprising due to the composition of the material. Because synthetics do not biodegrade, over time they break into smaller pieces, eventually forming microplastics which are shed into the environment and add to plastic pollution. Another way to cut fashion’s cost to the environment is by keeping clothes away from landfill as much as possible with recycling and remodelling. The reuse of clothing is sustainable not only from an environmental perspective but also for both consumers and the fashion business. According to a study conducted among German furriers 70 % of their work coming from consumers coming to the ateliers to have old fur coats redone. With less than 1% of clothes being recycled, fur remodelling turns out to be a role model for an efficient circular fashion showing how could we make the future of fashion more sustainable.
Other Stories In This Issue
Visit a fur farm in Europe
May 03, 2019 by Vladislava Gospodinova
“There is no better way to address prejudices about fur farming than to invite people inside, and let them see the conditions with their own eyes.” These are the words of Peter Hindbo, who is a fur farmer in Denmark. Over the years he has had hundreds of visitors on his farm to demonstrate there is another reality about fur farming than the one most people are met with on the internet. “99 per cent of my visitors leave the farm on a positive note. People literally change their mind on the spot when they see how playful and curious the animals behave. The perspective that animals in distress are exceptions that prove the rule may be the impression people get from the internet. The animal lobby has an interest in only showing only animals,” he says. The Open Farm scheme has been a part of Fur Europe’s outreach programme since 2012 but dates further back in many of the individual fur producing countries. In many cases, fur farms across a country open to the public every year on a scheduled day arranged by the national fur association, while sometimes such events are arranged together with other livestock producers. Other times visits are earmarked school classes or similar group events, but in spite of the efforts across Europe, the total number of visitors are rarely above 3.000 in a year. “Of course it is not interesting for everybody to visit a fur farm, after all, we are just a farm with some animals located far away from the city. Sometimes it’s also about getting the right visitors to come,” Peter Hindbo says and points to countries where fur farming has been banned. “I find it disgraceful that politicians will consider banning an entire industry without ever having visited a fur farm. All voices deserve to be heard and understood in a democracy, not just the ones shouting out loud,” he says. As a part of Fur Europe’s outreach programme, we offer a standing farm invitation to political stakeholders with an interest in fur farming. In principle, farm visits can take place in any fur producing country. If you are interested in visiting a fur farm, please forward a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fur Sector: World’s First Industry to Have Sustainability Report
May 06, 2019 by Vladislava Gospodinova
The global fur sector will become the first ever industry to develop a sustainability strategy – a tool usually adopted by companies who want to improve their CSR efforts. The Sustainability strategy will provide a self-assessment tool applicable to the entire fur supply chain on a global scale, from farmers to dresser and dyers, auction houses and the trade. ‘’We know that usually, it is individual companies mapping out sustainability strategies, but sustainability reporting is no longer something good to have. It’s a must for the fashion industry, ’’ says Mette Lykke Nielsen, CEO of Fur Europe. A holistic sustainability vision would extend beyond animal welfare with FurMark and WelFur, and look into ways to reduce the environmental impact and tackle social issues like human rights and fair labour practices. This three-pronged approach allows showing the positive impact the sector is already making for animal welfare, the environment and people. The next step is identifying the key performance indicators that would point out the way for the sector to improve further. The Sustainability reporting will be aligned with the Global Reporting Initiative Standards and will link to the UN Sustainability Development Goals. The strategy is planned to be ready in the autumn this year, while the full sustainability report is expected in 2020.
97% Fur Farms Close to WelFur Certification
May 03, 2019 by Vladislava Gospodinova
Approximately 97 per cent of European mink and fox farmers have signed up to become a part of the European fur sector’s animal welfare programme WelFur – in spite of it being a volunteer programme. "Our members understand the need for a transparent animal welfare debate based on scientific data rather than populist emotions. 97% is an incredibly high number," says Mette Lykke Nielsen, CEO of Fur Europe. Another motivation for fur farmers to join the programme is that without the WelFur certificate, fur farmers will be cut off from selling through the international fur auction houses from 2020. WelFur is an animal welfare assessment system developed by independent scientists from seven European universities. It is based on the methodology of the European Commission's world-famous Welfare Quality programme and is by far the most comprehensive animal welfare programme to be implemented on a continental scale with its massive focus on so-called animal indicators. It is designed to provide a reliable assessment of the welfare status and work as a tool for the individual farmer to increase animal welfare on the farm. The assessments are made by an independent third-party, Baltic Control, and over time the assessors will gather a vast amount of data useful for further animal welfare research as well as public transparency. In January, WelFur was endorsed by the European Commission as a Self-Regulation and Co-Regulation Initiative. It is the first animal welfare programme ever to be promoted in the Commission’s database of so-called ‘soft law’ initiatives. “The European Commission does not promote whitewashing, so it is a recognition of the credibility of WelFur and it shows the fur industry works responsibly with animal welfare and society. We support decision-making based on factual knowledge,” Mette Lykke Nielsen, CEO of Fur Europe, says. The scientific basis underneath the welfare of fur-farmed species will be further supported next year when the European Commission’s second Reference Centre for Animal Welfare will be established with fur farmed species as focus point together with poultry and rabbits.