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Fashioning a fightback against plastic

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In an initiative led by members of the Association of NIFT Alumni (NIFTA), several fashion, retail and consumer sector industry leaders have declared their personal commitment and encouraged others to fight one of the biggest, most persistent and most visible forms of pollution introduced by humans in the last few decades.

As India is the host country for this year’s World Environment Day, alumni of India’s leading institution focussed on consumer and retail sectors, the National Institute of Fashion Technology, decided to initiate a pledge among alumni, their colleagues and associates, to cut plastic usage in their businesses.

Plastic and synthetic materials made from petroleum-based raw materials are common in the fashion and retail sector, ranging from the obvious polybags and packaging materials, to trimmings such as collar bones and buttons, to the very fabrics that garments are made of. There is no doubt that the introduction of these materials has delivered benefits of durability and performance, but once the products have completed their ‘useful life’ they usually end up in the landfill. The useful life of packaging materials is limited to a few days or weeks – from the factory to retail shelves to the consumer’s hands – after which they end up as garbage, and can remain decaying for decades, even centuries. Polystyrene can take up to thousands of years to decompose.

Signatories to the pledge include more than 125 professionals across the spectrum, from business, design, manufacturing, sourcing, technology, services and others. They either head or work at companies as diverse as Levi Strauss, Aditya Birla Group, Arvind Fashions, Shoppers Stop, Third Eyesight, Adidas, ITC Limited, Triburg, Bestseller Group, Landmark Group, Hermes Otto, C&A, Amazon, Marks & Spencer, Matrix Clothing, Nagarro and others.

The signatories have pledged to personally work to eliminate single-use plastics, from their product design to consumption as a critical first step to beat plastic pollution, reduce and remove plastic waste, actively support research into and adoption of sustainable plastics and biodegradable materials, and to encourage their customers (both trade and consumers) to stop using non-biodegradable plastics in products that they buy from their companies.

Devangshu Dutta, Chief Executive of consulting firm Third Eyesight, and a Founding Member of NIFTA, said, “Fashion, consumer products and retail sectors are opinion-leaders and trendsetters worldwide. To beat plastic pollution, we need to entirely rethink our approach to plastic products and components, from design, to production and usage, including raw materials, trims, accessories and packaging.”

Anoop Nautiyal, also a NIFTA Founding Member, who leads Gati Foundation said, “The crusade against plastic is an extremely personal one for me. I belong to the hill state of Uttarakhand which has, in front my eyes, gone from being a pristine haven to an increasingly polluted space, choking on plastic. It is time that we start taking responsibility for the mess we’ve made. It is my hope that our resolve against single use plastic will be a small step in that direction, resulting in greater change that will make our nation and our world clean and green, again.”

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