Environmental impact of the Swedish textile consumption : a general LCA study

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In order to reach the Swedish environmental quality objectives, the Environmental ProtectionAgency has expressed a desire that consumption must be highlighted. The difficulty of assessingthe environmental impact of consumption lays in various calculation approaches, but one way toillustrate consumption is life cycle assessment (LCA). IVL, Swedish Environmental ResearchInstitute (IVL) has an ongoing project together with Chalmers about Urban Metabolism, wheredifferent branches of consumption are highlighted. In the current situation, the textile industryaccounts for approximately 2-10% of Europe's environmental impacts and until now, no complete LCA model over the Swedish textile consumption has been developed.

The main goal of this thesis was to develop a LCA model for the Swedish textile consumption and to study the environmental impact that the consumption entails. Using data from StatisticsSweden, net consumption between 2000 and 2013 was analysed. The results showed thatclothing and household textiles account for the largest proportion of consumed textiles (68%) and cotton, wool, viscose, polyester and nylon are the most common fibres.

With the GaBi software a general life cycle model for the years 2000, 2007 and 2013 wasdeveloped. The model included 25 different clothing and household articles. For each article, themodel covers raw material extraction, product manufacturing, use phase and waste management.The environmental impact categories; Acidification Potential (AP), Eutrophication Potential(EP), Global Warming Potential (GWP), Human Toxicity Potential (HTP), TerrestrialEcotoxicity Potential (TETP) as well as energy and water use were analysed. The model showedthat the production phase (including raw material production) has a great influence on theenvironmental impacts, but the use phase was equally important in certain impact categories.The major processes affecting the life cycle were energy use in manufacturing of the fabric,production of natural fibres, detergent as well as energy consumption in tumble dryers. Withconscious decisions the consumer has great opportunities to influence the overall environmentalimpacts. In addition, increased recycling and reuse can potentially decrease the environmentalimpacts from the production stage.

The model is considered good enough for the results to be reliable and useful in order to predictthe environmental impacts of the Swedish textile consumption. The results are also validatedwith results from other studies which increases credibility.

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