Consumers do not throw away natural fur garments
Aug 21, 2020 by Mick Madsen
The trademark problem of fast fashion is its short life. Various surveys estimate the life time of clothing between 2 and 3 years, for the most part before incarceration. From a sustainability perspective it is problematic when products are rather quickly replaced with new, resource-intensive products. According to the European Commission, long active life is currently considered the most efficient way to improve sustainability in fashion. Natural fur garments are famed for their long life time, but a new survey from the International Fur Federation bring real data to the argument. Across the four largest natural fur markets (Germany, Italy, UK and France) in Europe, 76 percent of fur owners said their natural fur garments will be given extended life through remodeling, donation or re-sale, when the garment is no longer in use. While the properties may vary between different fur types, natural fur generally has very good technical characteristics for long life. The higher price levels characterizing handcrafted products like fur garments is a well-established parameter for longer fashion product life, but interestingly product lifetime and sustainability also begins to have value to consumers in its own right. "It is definitely an argument that fur is a product that can be either upcycled through redesigning, or naturally recycled if you out put it in the soil. People understand these things now. Five years ago nobody cared, but today we talk much more about sustainability than we did before," German furrier Tim Mersmann said.
Repairment and remodelling is core businessFrom his shop ‘Mersmann Design’ in Münster, Germany, he sells a range of natural furs in addition to other natural leather materials. He estimates that 40 percent of Mersmann Design’s turnover on fur garments stem from redesign and repairing, while 60 percent of the turnover is generated from sales of virgin fur. Across Germany however, he believes turnover from redesigning and repairing of fur garments is considerably larger than 40 percent. Yet, the possibility of extending garment life comes as a surprise to consumers of the fast fashion age, to whom the bone marrow reaction is to simply replace old stuff with something new. "Many of the people who come in here don’t even know redesign exist. Some people come in with the motivation that they want to sell an old fur coat, or they want to know what kind of fur it is. We tell them, you have something of value here. A perfect, long-lasting material, and then we show them different possible redesigns. It often works," Tim Mersmann said. "The sales speech is supported by brochures outlining the possibilities with redesign, and fur technique samples displayed in the shop. Redesigning is also advertised in the street windows of Mersmann Design, and it should be a market of opportunity: only 16% of Germans in possession of a fur garment have had it redesigned, and Tim Mersmann think there are many old fur garments stored around Germany that could achieve new life through redesign – and thus contribute to a greener planet.
Design for extended useAnother sustainability advantage of handcrafted clothing is the opportunity to design for extended use. As many as 50 percent of the fur coats Tim Mersmann sell are reversible, making the garment suited for different occasions. "Here in Münster people are conservative and don’t want to show off, so they wear the fur inside. If they go to a posh place the fur will be outside, but if they go to the market the fur can be on the inside. I tell our customers: 'you have to wear it, and have fun with it'. A lamb or a mink coat can easily be worn for 10 years, so instead of buying many jackets releasing microfibers, you can buy one fur coat, and you have something that is more sustainable - and the price is the same in the long run," he said.
Other Stories In This Issue
Putting Circularity Into Action: Next SFF Webinar Open for Registration
Sep 07, 2020 by Mick Madsen
The Sustainable Fur Forum (SFF) will hold its second event on 29 September, in the form of a webinar. Circular economy, a necessary and major development for a sustainable European economy, will be at the centre of the SFF webinar, that will be chaired by MEP Juozas Olekas. The New Circular Economy Action Plan adopted by the European Commission last March encompasses the upcoming comprehensive EU Strategy for Textiles. Textiles are actually the fourth highest-pressure category for the use of primary raw materials and water, and less than 1 per cent of all textiles worldwide are recycled into new textiles. By contrast, the fur sector is an excellent example of a circular production system with upcycling taking place throughout the value chain. Indeed, while most textiles have short product life and rather quickly end up in landfills, natural fur has technical properties for extraordinary long lifetime. With proper care, fur garments can last for several decades. During this meeting - taking place from 13h to 14.30h - we will seek to engage discussion on the policy priorities of the European fur sector for a circular, sustainable and responsible fur value chain, also in light of the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. We welcome MEP Juozas Olekas (chair of the Sustainable Fur Forum) and Mrs Johanne Stenstrup, who is sustainable fashion campaigner, author, and entrepreneur. Registrations are open until Wednesday 23 of September via this link. A link to the webinar will be shared with participants prior to the meeting. For further information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is what You Should Know About COVID-19 Disease and Mink Farms
Sep 15, 2020 by Mick Madsen
Humans, not mink farms, spread coronavirus in society. This is one of the conclusions of a new study from experts in the Dutch Outbreak Management Team Zoonosis (OMT-Z), who have conducted research on Covid-19 infected mink farms in The Netherlands. Genetic comparison documented that DNA sequences in people living in the local communities around mink farms reflected the general diversity in The Netherlands, and were not related to DNA sequences found in mink farms in the area. Yet, caution is needed with regards to Covid-19 and mink farms. The study also confirms that mink-to-human transmission of coronavirus is possible, and strict biosecurity measures are essential to keep the virus in check on mink farms.
People spread coronavirus between mink farms.In The Netherlands 52 farms have been infected with coronavirus since April. The infected Dutch farms have not contributed to spreading the virus in human society, but mink farms have spread coronavirus to other mink farms. The OMT-Z research was able to link DNA sequences from most farms in the research with each other. Humans turned out to be the most common epidemiological link, for example between farms with the same owner, exchange of farm workers or common feed supply. In some cases, there was no obvious link between farms with shared DNA sequences. Therefore, farm cats or other animals are mentioned in the OMZ-T research as potential transmitters between mink farms.
Mink farms as Covid-19 reservoirs is a theory, not a factAs a consequence of the increased number of Covid-19 infected mink farms in The Netherlands, the Dutch state decided to compensate mink farmers, and accelerate the ban on mink farming from original 31 December 2024 to March 2021 (effectively the end of the ongoing production season). As healthy mink farms pose no risk to public health, the Dutch decision is also tied to mink farms’ assumed potential as so-called reservoirs for coronavirus. While OMT-Z considers this potential “likely”, they also conclude that more research is needed to demonstrate if mink can be an actual reservoir of SARS-CoV-2. In all likelihood, we will get more knowledge about this soon. Currently, research is taking place on Covid-19 infected mink farms in Denmark. As a starting point, Denmark chose a different strategy from The Netherlands. Instead of culling infected mink farms, the Danish authorities decided to isolate such farms under strict biosecurity rules, coupled with a nationwide monitoring programme. This strategy provides a unique opportunity to study the development of Covid-19 disease on mink farms.
New research may challenge reservoir theoryThe question is this: Will mink populations infected with Covid-19 achieve herd immunity and virus die out - or will virus continue to live on in the mink farm environment? If the virus continues to thrive in the farm environment, even after Covid-19 disease have swept through the farm, it makes up a reservoir. It was the Dutch experts from OMT-Z who originally coined the theory about Covid-19 mink farm reservoirs. While the theory also underpins the accelerated farming ban in The Netherlands, it was necessarily based on epidemiological assumptions since the ‘clinical trial’ to prove it was aborted with the political decision to cull mink farms as a precautionary measure. This happened approximately four weeks after the farm was infected with Covid-19. This is not the case of the mink farm research in Denmark. Due to the current Danish no-cull strategy, the on-farm study of coronavirus can continue, and the researchers can directly monitor if the virus lives on in the farm environment or not. The research from Denmark will be published in the coming months. Besides mink farms in Denmark and The Netherlands, Covid-19 has also been found in one Spanish farm, and two farms in Utah, USA. The Spanish farm was culled as a precautionary measure, while an isolation strategy was imposed on the two farms in Utah.
Low-Quality Textiles Undermine Textile Recycling
Sep 15, 2020 by Vladislava Gospodinova
Experts fear that low-quality textiles – not designed for circularity - will downgrade the efforts to boost textile recycling as the separate collection becomes mandatory under the updated EU Waste Directive. ‘’The obligation to separately collect textiles by 2025 will mechanically increase the supply of used textiles, shoes and accessories without addressing current issues linked to poor circular textiles’ design and low-quality materials which directly impact preparing for re-use and recycling of used textiles,’’ said from EuRic, the European Recycling Industries’ Confederation. A recently published report by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency comparing textile collection and treatment in 6 European counties estimates that over the next 5 years an additional 1.4 million tonnes non-reusable textiles will be collected annually in Europe. Once no longer in use, unwanted clothes are usually brought to at a collection point – bring banks and curbside collector, from where they are transported for industrial sorting. The best-quality garments that could be worn again are skimmed off and sent to second-hand markets for re-use. However, the global market for re-used clothing is also crumbling under the pressure of growth-obsessed fast fashion retail offering low-quality clothing. The remaining clothes, the non-wearables, are considered waste that needs to be handled. But experts suggest the technologies and systems are not advanced enough to handle such a huge amount of collected waste mainly due to the composition of our clothes. ‘’Multi-layer garments and garments with fibre blends containing three or more different fibre types are not suited for fibre-to-fibre recycling,’’ clarified from EuRic adding: ‘’The only technique for fibre-to-fibre recycling currently existing and operational on a semi-industrial level is for the cotton. For this technique, the garments have to consist currently out of 90% cotton.[..] Recycling techniques for polyester and viscose are being developed but are not on an industrial level at the moment.’’ Globally 60 % of all textiles on the market are of synthetic origin compared to only 37 % for cotton. Using raw materials deriving from fossil fuels downgrades the quality of the produced fibres, even before it reaches the end of life. Once discarded, these textiles become very difficult to recycle. ‘’In line with the waste hierarchy textiles should be re-used as much as possible before being recycled. Low-quality textiles are less suitable for re-use and therefore, less sustainable’’, explained from EuRic. For waste collectors, the textiles classified as unwearable are a burden because they can’t be sold for second-hand use and don’t bring any profit. But making recycling economically viable could be done by introducing ‘’Extended Producers Responsibility’’ – a move that the EU Commissions is set to make with the upcoming Textile Strategy. Under this scheme, the producers will be financially responsible when their products are thrown away. Currently, France is the only country with legislation that makes extended producers responsibility mandatory, which put the county at the top of the chart for hitting recycling targets. Experts argue that understanding better the lifecycle of products rather than making products recyclable might be the key to reduce textile waste. Keeping products you already have in use for longer through care, remodelling or repair could help the fashion industry to cut approx. 143 million GHG emissions by 2030, cites the latest GFA and McKinsey’s “Fashion on Climate” report. This circular model is a trademark for fur garments where 76 % of fur owners say that intend to extend the life of garments through remodelling, donation or re-sale when the garment is no longer in use. According to McKinsey’s reports, repair and refurbishments alone could potentially double the lifetime of a product. Different experts see different ways to cut waste and tackle its environmental cost. However, they agree that all roads go through cutting overconsumption of low-quality textile and making sure that the ones which ultimately become waste are recyclable.
Covid-19: Mink Farm Research to Provide Important Vaccine Knowledge
Sep 12, 2020 by Mick Madsen
A mink farm in Eastern Denmark is subject to research that will provide unique knowledge in the fight against coronavirus. The 1.300 minks on this farm were infected with Covid-19, quite likely back in April sometime, but by now the animal population has achieved herd immunity and developed Covid-19 antibodies. This provides researchers with a unique opportunity to study antibody levels in an entire population. Amongst the answers, this research may provide the efficiency of a possible Covid-19 vaccine. "Antibody levels are anticipated to decrease over time, but we don’t know how fast or homogenous it will happen. We can learn a lot from mink farm samples. To begin with, we are very interested in knowing for how long a good antibody response can be observed in mink. Antibody levels have an effect on how well a possible vaccine will work, and how well you are protected against possible new infection," Anne Sofie Hammer, Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, University of Copenhagen, said. The research farm is relatively small in terms of pelt production, but for research purposes, it is a large population. In addition, the minks are roughly the same age and housed under the same conditions, and this makes up for a clinical trial setting not easily replicated elsewhere, if at all. "In order to become better at handling COVID-19, it is important to provide as much knowledge as possible about how the infection develops in both animals and humans. This is the basis for constantly optimising the prevention and treatment of the infectious disease, and this is a unique opportunity," said Anne Sofie Hammer. In the coming months results from research conducted on a number of Danish mink farms will be published, and become a part of the global fight against Covid-19. Also, Dutch researchers have published papers from on-farm research that is valuable in this regard. "The minks appear to develop Covid-19 disease in a manner similar to the pattern seen in humans. Most animals stay healthy following infection, but some animals, and perhaps particularly animals that have a less well-developed immune system, can develop severe pneumonia," Anne Sofie Hammer said.
IFF’s Sustainability Campaign Calls For Reconnecting with Nature
Sep 13, 2020 by Mick Madsen
Slow down, consume less, and value craftsmanship, detail, and high quality. This is the message in the International Fur Federation's (IFF) new Sustainability Fashion campaign, that buys right into fashion's most pressing problems fashion - the environmental pollution. In just a few years, the 'buy and throw away'-culture characterising today's fast fashion markets has been put into the spotlight by fashion researchers and NGOs, who say fundamental changes in the production and consumption of clothing is needed to avoid environmental disaster. "There is a need to rewire fashion, to rethink how we consume fashion from both perspectives: as brands as well as consumers. The fashion system has become too fast, too scattered, emotionless, destructive and out of touch. In all modesty, natural fur ticks all the boxes of slow, responsible fashion. Our campaign is about highlighting exactly that," Jean-Pierre Rouphael, Director of Fashion at IFF, said. Fast fashion, driven by overproduction and blamed for lack of environmental responsibility, is often criticised for its contribution to GHG emissions and plastic pollution. Policymakers and sustainability experts are calling for a halt to the current linear model and advocate for ‘kinder to nature’ and more responsible approach, which is at the hear of ‘slow fashion.