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Nonprofit uses technology to study clothing durability

Global non-profit organization The sustainability consortium (TSC), jointly administered by the University of Arkansas and Arizona State University, recently published a study examining how technology can track clothing usage.

The participants of the “Project WearEver: Demonstrating The Feasibility of Use Digital Tags to Measure Use Clothing” scanned digital tags with their smartphones to track clothing usage. The study, which states that global apparel sales were US $ 1.87 trillion in 2019, was completed from 2019 to 2020.

TSC Chief Scientist Kevin Dooley explained the technology as an extension of tags used to track clothing throughout the supply chain and deter shoplifting. The technology can be used for product research, including determining the durability of garments or the lifespan of an item of clothing.

Clothing companies are interested in what happens to clothes at the end of their lives, he said. They want to know the percentages donated or recycled as an incentive to improve the numbers, he added.

“While recycling clothing can be useful and important, extending its life – whether it just lasts longer and is more used by its original owner, or is durable enough… to get into a donation channel and bought or donated to someone else to become – that can only happen if the clothes are durable, ”said Dooley. “Because if it’s scrap, if it’s donated, it’s just thrown away.”

TSC wants to work together to create a standard way of communicating sustainability data, he said. Consumer marketing is also interested in the technology as companies want to stay in touch with customers after a sale.

Study participants said that identifying unused items of clothing in their closets was a top technology feature. Quote research partner Stuffstr.com, Dooley noted that customers are more willing to donate clothes knowing they are not being used.

He doesn’t expect the technology to be in all clothing, but in the long run, customers could choose to use it for product research and consumer feedback. He also said companies that rent or lease clothes might be interested in the technology to help determine how long clothes have been used.