Getting Rid of Textile Waste
Guest blog post by Jess K
Oil bears the brunt when it comes to the global environmental problem, and for good reason. But the textile industry is not far behind, being responsible for 10 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions. The garment-making process is the obvious problem but so is the manner in which we dispose of clothes when they no longer hold value to us. Unwanted clothes are a big environmental problem. In 2017 alone, 300,000 tonnes of textiles ended up in landfill in the UK. That is £12.5 billion worth of clothes. The sad part is that not all of these materials are unwearable. Fast fashion dictates that garments are discarded after a few wears and they land up in the junk heap, which gives rise to a whole different monster called greenhouse gases.
So, what do we do with clothes we no longer need?
The solutions are simple and doable. Here are some things you can try out if you want to get rid of unwanted garments in a sustainable manner.
Upcycle: Transform throwaway products into something new and with a different functionality. Essentially when you upcycle you are taking material destined for the landfill and giving them new life. The best part about this is that you are free to do anything. It is fun, saves you money, plus you get the satisfaction of creating something on your own. Unwanted clothes are great raw material for DIY projects. You can make pillow or chair covers out of them or some other nice creation which can be used as a gift. Old jeans can be turned into a coin purse; blanket into coats; other clothes into rugs, curtains, bags and bed sheets; belts into cute bracelets. With a little practice and creativity, there is no end to the possibilities.
Recycle: There must be some recycling program close to your area that is willing to take your old clothes and adapt them for other purposes. Thankfully, big industry names are getting aboard the recycling train. Nike takes athletic shoes and repurposes them to create tracks and playgrounds. H&M has a program where customers can give their old clothes for recycling; what’s more, you may get a shopping voucher as compensation for your troubles. Even designers are at it. Tara St. James, who teaches zero-waste design at the Pratt Institute, incorporates discarded material straight into her new creations. Every piece of raw material is of the best quality which not only embellishes the look of the garment but also ensures a long-lasting product.
Donate: You can give your clothes to thrift stores (try a trusted store like threadUP) where secondhand shoppers can make better use of them. Often, these stores will use the proceeds from the items to give to charities, so that’s another box checked. Or, if you have vintage clothes, you can hand them over to vintage fabric collectors; uncut, good-condition fabrics can fetch you a good amount. It’s not always about the money though. So, how about handing clothes over to family members or friends who are good at crafts? They’d probably be thrilled to take them. If all this is too much of a bother, simply put them up on Instagram.
Make compost: You can try and make compost of fabrics fashioned from natural fibres. Synthetic fibres take hundreds of years to decompose and most contain chemicals harmful to the environment. So, use only clothes made from biodegradable materials as these can be broken down by bacteria. Organic cotton, silk, helm, ramie, jute, and abaca are some good examples of biodegradable material used to make fabric.
To make compost, you can start by cutting the cloth into small sizes (so they decompose quicker) and then spreading the cut pieces out evenly.
Also, ensure to remove from the cloth materials that cannot biodegrade, such as pieces of metal like zippers or anything made of plastic.
And don’t forget worms. Thefertiliser they produce after consuming biodegradable fibresis great for growing plants.
Finally, use hot compost or compost created without losing heat; heat loss isone of the main reasons why it takes time to decompose. With hot composting, the process becomes a lot quicker.
Don’t buy things for the short term
Besides getting rid of unwanted clothes in a sustainable way, you can also do a lot worse than embrace slow fashion. In other words, buy clothes of greater quality that will sustain you for a number of years. Buying quality invariably means you spend more but, over the long run, the gap between purchases means that you will actually end up saving money. Additionally, your wardrobe will look classier and the clothes will fit and feel better on you. Of course, all this requires you to take proper care of the garments you purchase.
You are not alone if you have been sending your clothes to the landfill. It’s a universal problem that we face. So, when we recycle, upcycle or reuse our clothes – essentially extend their lives – we are taking a huge load off the environment. Further, the massive tracts of land that are designated for landfill can be used for something better, not to mention the cost, financial and environmental, of transporting the waste to these sites.