recycling-used-clothing in strata

Recycling Old Clothing

We all wear clothes, we agree they are necessary, and some of us have an unbreakable love for fashion. The fashion industry also represents an important part of our economies, however, increasing attention has been brought to the range of negative environmental impacts that the industry is responsible for.

For example, did you know that the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions every year (more than all international airline flights and maritime shipping trips combined (UNEP, 2018) and the industry uses 93 billion cubic metres of water annually – enough to meet the needs of five million people.

Around 20% of industrial wastewater pollution worldwide originates from the fashion industry. What’s more, 85% of all textiles go to the dump each year (UNECE, 2018), and washing some types of clothes sends a significant amount of microplastics into the ocean.

People are buying more, and keeping clothes for a much shorter time than ever before and our desire for the newest trends isn’t going away any time soon.

As much as we love fashion, the trend in ‘fast fashion’ comes at an astonishing environmental and social cost.

Fast fashion also has a human cost. Textile workers, primarily women in developing countries, are often paid derisory wages and forced to work long hours in appalling conditions.

According to the Global Slavery Index, an enormous $127.7bn worth of garments are at risk of having modern slavery in their supply chain. This means the fashion industry is the second-largest driver behind modern slavery within G20 countries.

So how can we make this much loved but destructive industry sustainable?

The environmental and social cost of the fashion industry forces us to rethink fast fashion and stresses the need for more sustainable business models and practices.

Australia is the second-largest consumer of textiles in the world, per capita, and we are dumping 6,000 kilograms of clothing in landfill every 10 minutes. To make matters worse, textile recycling is still in its infancy in Australia and there are no commercial textile recyclers here.

Ultimately, it’s up to us, the consumer, to prevent unnecessary waste. Brands change practices when consumers demand they do. Here are our top tips to drive change:

Be more mindful about purchases. Take a brief “mindful pause” to go over your items before committing to a purchase. Act with awareness of your environment and emotional state. Ask yourself “Do I need this, or am I tempted to purchase it because of the affordable price?”, “Is this the size I wear, or does this brand run small?”, “Does this item truly represent my style, or do I only want it because it’s “on-trend”?”

Think about the brand you are buying from. Does it have ethical and sustainable practices? Some not-for-profit websites like Rank a Brand and the Environmental Working Group use a credible criteria to determine whether or not a brand is sustainable. The Fashion Transparency Index (FTI) indicates which brands have shown improvement over the past few years and which still need to up their game. Greenpeace is another source of excellent information on how to tell if a fashion brand is sustainable. They have a section of their website called The Big Fashion Stitch Up.

Be wary of clothes made far away or clothing brands that appeal on price. When labels move production to Asia or other developing countries, to increase their profit margins by paying workers peanuts, that’s just not on. The same goes for budget labels that compete on price. Are they doing so to the detriment of factory workers? Ultimately, it’s actually down to us to realise that a $5 tee shirt reeks of exploitation and environmental degradation and to demand change.

Donate old clothes to charity. Charities such as Vinnies, The Red Cross, and Salvation Army sell used clothes or donate them to people in need. Recycle Smart has partnered up with NSW councils to offer a free pick up service.

Recycling clothes in strata complexesClothing Away is a not-for-profit organisation providing a free textile collection and recycling service to residential apartments in its efforts to help the environment and the community. They supply FREE textile collection and recycling bins on-site in apartment waste rooms for the convenient collection of clothing and household textiles. Their service is free of charge and their collection teams will be on-site fortnightly. If you have more than 50 units in your building, contact Clothing Away about getting a free recycling textile bin at your property. 

Clothes or textiles not good enough for charity? If you’ve got damaged clothes, textiles, or shoes that aren’t quite right for donating, there are a number of services that are recycling old clothes and shoes such as ASGA Save our Soles, which takes your used sneakers, thongs, and footy boots and extracts the rubber, leather, and fibres, using them to manufacture new materials like gym mats, floors, and playgrounds. Boomerang Bags transform your leftover quilting fabric, doona covers, and pillowcases into reusable bags. Worn Up accepts towels, sheets, non-wearable uniforms, and deadstock from businesses, schools, and sports associations. These are turned into new products like dog beds, school desks, and tiles. Fibre Economy divert workwear such as mining uniforms from landfill by redistributing them to people who will use them – from apprentices to fashion students. There are also numerous brands that will collect used clothes and textiles such as Sheridan which accepts your old sheets and towels for recycling and sends these textiles overseas to be made into recycled yarn and turned into new products. H&M and Zara also have used clothing recycling bins in stores.

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