Fast fashion, which means mass producing clothes that are up to date with the most recent fashion trends for relatively low prices, is an environmental issue worth noticing. According to a report from 2017 by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the fashion industry is contributing more to climate change than both the aviation and shipping industries combined. Besides the large amount of clothes that are produced annually, the choice of material for these clothes is another issue. Many of our apparels contain plastic material, such as polyester, nylon, acrylic and polyamide. Every time these clothes are being washed, plastic microfibers end up in the ocean and consequently enter the food chain. This is something that has been highlighted by several NGO’s, including the Friends of the Earth. To slow down the fast fashion industry, we need to change our consumer behaviour. This can be done by:
- When possible, repair clothes instead of buying new ones.
- Swap clothes with friends and family, it is a fun and cheap way of getting a new wardrobe and at the same time getting rid of clothes you never wear.
- Explore the charity shops in your local area.
- When buying new clothes, stick to garments of high quality and avoid clothes that contain plastic materials.
However, besides the need to decrease the production of new clothes, we also need to stop throwing away clothes we no longer want. In 2017, it was estimated that one garbage truck full of textiles is landfilled or burnt every second. Vast amounts of clothing could instead be recycled into new clothing or other products. Recycling clothes is possible, yet, less than 1 % of the material used to produce clothing globally is being recycled into new clothing, and only 12 % is recycled for other purposes, such as insulation or mattress stuffing. Here are a few tips on how to reduce your clothing waste:
- Make your clothes last longer by washing in lower temperatures and repair when possible.
- Donate unwanted clothes to a charity shop or sell them. There are many trading sites where it is possible to resell used clothes.
- If something is beyond repair, or not suitable to be passed on to someone else, put it in a bag and recycle the bag when it is full. The clothes will then be made into new items, such as padding for chairs, cleaning clothes or industrial blankets. There are several textile banks within the UK where old clothes and other textiles can be dropped off. You usually find these in the supermarkets and local car parks. Visit Recycle Now’s website to find out the location of your nearest textile bank. You can also hand in old clothes and textiles to several stores that will recycle it, such as H&M and & other stores.
To be able to go towards a sustainable future we need to change our consumer behaviour. We also need to take better care of the clothes we have and the ones we leave behind. Everybody can do something. What changes are you willing to make?
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This post is the first in our monthly focus on waste and recycling. If you enjoyed this post take a look at the second in the series Waste and Recycling in the Commonwealth and keep checking back to see other posts later in the month.