How is the textiles sector combating their waste?
When you think of landfills, you probably think of big piles of trash, from worn out fridges to multiple garbage bags. You may not have considered the soft fabrics and discarded jeans from our fast-fashion obsession — but the reality is that much of our wardrobe is destined for the landfill.
In the UK, over 300,000 tonnes of clothing hits the landfill every year. And for items that don’t end up on the landfill? Recently, Burberry caused an outcry online after revealing they burned their excess stock, having burnt more than $50 million worth of clothes, perfumes, and accessories in 2017.
Our wasteful consumption of fast-moving fashion is crippling the planet. Wrap revealed in their study of the textiles industry that, between 2012 and 2016, the carbon footprint from clothing in the UK has increased from 24 million tonnes to 26.2 million tonnes of CO2.
With so many clothes headings to the landfill, and with the nature of the fashion industry moving at such a rapid pace, what can be done to both tackle the impact on the environment and keep the industry ticking over? We’ve asked Reconomy, who offer skip hire and expertise in the waste management sector that can help reduce business costs and improve sustainability, to look into the waste solutions for textiles.
Food for Fabrics
Tree Hugger reported on a recent process that could tackle the initial carbon footprint caused by textile production. Making clothes uses up a lot of resources, such as water, fuel, and chemical dyes. Circular Systems is offering a solution to that — fibres made from food scraps. In fact, the initiative would solve two issues at once, by making textile production less wasteful and combating the food waste problem.
Circular Systems, a clean-tech new materials company, also has a technology in place to use existing scraps of textiles and discarded clothing and recycling them into new fibres. This means the company addresses both the environmental impact at the beginning of a textile cycle, with its creation, and at the end of its life, avoiding the landfill.
In a similar vein, Bio Based World News revealed a new clothing process in the form of fabric made from coffee grounds. Singtex is the name of the company responsible for changing how we look at what our clothes could be made from. Like Circular Systems, they are looking to tackle two issues head-on, but converting a backlog of waste from one sector (again, the food industry) and turning it into a useable item in another sector (the textiles industry).
Love Your Clothes
Wrap launched their own project to help the textiles industry deal with its wasteful nature, with the Love Your Clothes website. This website offers customers a series of helpful advice points, such as:
· Buying clothes — tips on how to “buy smart”, with an emphasis on clothes that will last, hiring options, swapping stations, or buying second-hand.
· Care and Repair — this section gives some great lifehacks on how to look after your clothes to keep them living longer. It also advises on how to repair clothes to give them a new lease of life.
· Refashion and Upcycle — something of a lost art, it certainly needs to see a revival! Here, instead of buying new clothes, the website encourages people to look at their old clothes and find ways to alter or combine items to make new outfits. The best part of this is you end up with a totally unique item.
· Unwanted clothes — for clothes that don’t fit, that you’ve grown out of, or no longer need, sometimes upcycling isn’t an option. But that doesn’t mean you get to fling them away. Dispose of your clothes responsibly, with a range of different ways to sell, swap, or donate.
Several retail outlets have run exchange programmes in the past, where customers can make use of their local shops to drop off clothes for recycling. Sometimes, customers can even get discounts for doing so.
For example, Target and I:Collect ran a two-week campaign which allowed customers to receive a 20% discount on jeans if they brought in an old denim item. The denim was divided into two piles to be either reused or recycled.
In the UK, clothing retailer H&M offers a recycling service too. With the promise to accept any brand in any condition, H&M notes that it was the first brand to do a full-scale clothing recycling program in-store. Customers can bring down their old, unwanted clothes in exchange for a H&M voucher. The service is also offered in their concept stores, at Monki and & Other Stories.
The old clothes are marked as rewear, reuse, or recycle.
The world is in dire need of a waste solution when it comes to clothing. The fashion industry moves so quickly, and it’s leaving a trail of quickly-discarded clothing in its wake. Businesses need to ensure they have a responsible waste management system in place, such as those provided by Reconomy, to ensure less waste hits the landfill.
For more information about combating waste, reach out to Reconomy here for advice.