The Role of Life Cycle Assessment in Analyzing Circular Economy Strategies in the Clothing Sector: A Review
Lizarzaburu-Egüez, Lorena; Toboso-Chavero, Susana; Rufí-Salís, Martí
ACCESS at Progress on Life Cycle Assessment in Textiles and Clothing (2023) pp 83–118. This chapter is part of the Textile Science and Clothing Technology […]
ACCESS at Progress on Life Cycle Assessment in Textiles and Clothing (2023) This chapter is part of the Textile Science and Clothing Technology book series.
Clothes play a main role in societies. They protect people from weather conditions and are important means of communication and expression. However, the clothing industry is at the center of increasing criticism because of its contribution to climate change, resource depletion, water pollution, and waste generation, among others. These impacts are closely linked to the fast-paced, massive consumption-oriented, and linear model in which clothes are produced, marketed, distributed, used, and disposed of. The Circular Economy (CE) concept emerged as an alternative to the mainstream linear scheme, which seeks to recycle wastes into resources, keep products, components, and materials at their highest level of utility and value for as long as possible, while designing out waste and pollution and regenerating natural systems. Despite some identified challenges, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is very well suited to analyze CE strategies and contribute to a better environmental performance of products and systems. In this context, this research aims to contribute to a better understanding of the role of LCA in supporting CE strategies for the clothing industry by conducting a systematic literature review. After analyzing 256 papers, the results show that LCA has been applied to assess the environmental impacts of clothing since 1997, while CE and clothing publications start to appear almost 20 years later. Despite the CE framework being newer than the LCA, the speed in which CE publications increase is significantly faster. There is a wide range of LCA studies applied to different clothing life cycle stages that could be used to inform CE strategies. A number of these studies were specifically developed to inform CE. Our review shows that CE researchers today are mostly evaluating stakeholder perceptions and consumer attitudes, influenced by a business model mindset. However, CE strategies require a conscious analysis to be proved efficient and claiming that currently promoted generic circular fashion strategies have better environmental performance than traditional strategies in any scenario would still be inexact. Therefore, further work in landing CE strategies through a closer relationship with science-based tools like LCA is needed.