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LONDON – The International Alpaca Association has issued a detailed response to this week’s announcement from the Sustainable Apparel Coalition statement that it would not be retiring the controversial Higg MSI score for alpaca fibre.

The International Alpaca Association and Association of Exporters recently called on the SAC to retire the ‘score’ given to alpaca fibre in its Higg MSI, raising questions about its validity and trustworthiness and asking why it is around nine times higher than that of polyester.

Juan Pepper, International Alpaca Association president, this week contacted Apparel Insider with the following response:

“In the wake of PETA’s unfair attack to the Alpaca sector in Peru, especially to the more than 93,000 families of breeders, we had the opportunity to know the Higg index promoted by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), we were struck by its vision: ‘An apparel, footwear and textiles industry, that produces no unnecessary environmental harm and has a positive impact on the people and the associated communities with its activities’.

“Higg Index is supposedly a tool that allows one to measure the environmental impact on the process of manufacturing fabrics with different textile fibres, measuring this impact in its initial stage and not on the entire product lifecycle and its final disposition.

“We were surprised by the [poor] valuation that Higg gives to natural fibre (animals and vegetables) against synthetic fibres, regardless of the ecosystem of each of these fibres.

“On repeated occasions the Alpaca Value Chain and the Government of Peru has requested from the SAC information on the Higg procedure to attribute this [ranking] to the Alpaca fibre and to this day we have not received any response.

“The importance of the SAC and the reputation of the companies that support it should show respect and transparency to the actors affected by such an assessment. In Peru we are talking about more than 250,000 families. We do not understand this attitude in such a respectable and serious organisation.

“The assessment of the environmental impact of any product should consider its entire life cycle and the bio lifecycle associated with its processes.

“Two activities associated with the life cycle of a product, re-use and recycling, are being promoted in order to minimise the environmental impact, but we must have very clear the whole picture.

“How many times can a polyester textile garment be recycled, 3, 4 times? Consider then the detachment of synthetic microparticles that end up polluting the air, seas and rivers with catastrophic consequences for the life of the planet.

“The accumulation of inorganic and toxic substances is one of the major challenges of the textile industry, as well as the use of renewable raw materials.

“If adequate technologies are not available, the disposal of solid waste and the accumulation of toxics will remain a serious problem. This is further compounded by considering the time it takes for a synthetic fibre to degrade (hundreds of years).

“Is the fast fashion industry willing to bear this cost?

“The different textile fibres have their own dynamics both in their socio-cultural, productive and commercial role. Their use must be framed in respect for people and the environment in its full breadth.

“Let us avoid becoming greenwashers and ensure that every actor in this large and diverse industry assumes responsibility; we are sure that a duly informed consumer will be able to make the best decisions.

“We dare to touch on a theme that very few people know about. Alpaca fibre has a low rating granted by Higg and the main reason is a phenomenon called eutrophication.

“Eutrophication means contamination, particularly of lakes and rivers by a small algae that develop by excess nitrogen and phosphorus due to agricultural, extractive activities and of course the inadequate disposal of sewage in these aquifers.

“It is true that alpaca droppings have a high nitrogen and phosphorus content. It is also true of its presence in auriferous areas in the Andean Highlands of Peru and South America, which for thousands of years have caused no harm. This situation is likely to be part of the balance in the alpaca ecosystem.

“We have sought to approach the SAC in order to understand and know how to establish this value for Alpaca fibre and we still do not have an answer. Meanwhile, the Alpaca Value Chain is being damaged.

“We appeal to the SAC’s reputation and transparency to enable us to share information to understand and know the methodology used by Higg on the alpaca fibre assessment.”

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