“Too many clothes, but nothing to wear.” Most people have said these words while standing in front of their closet staring into a huge pile of clothes. With many used clothes ending up in landfills without being recycled properly, old clothes like party dresses and outdated sweaters in your wardrobe may hinder your way to sustainability, and most people are not aware.
According to Greenpeace, from 2000 to 2014, the number of clothes produced has doubled globally, while the average wearable time per article of clothing has shortened to just three years. In the UK, the rate of textile waste has experienced rapid growth in the past 10 years, resulting in textile waste becoming a severe social and environmental issue. However, with just simple tips and small gestures, you can turn your used clothes from a lame duck to a sustainable fashion statement.
What Is Clothes Waste?
Clothes waste, which is more broadly categorised as part of the textile waste, is made up of the clothes people find unusable and thus discard. Research shows that in the UK, people usually throw away 680 million clothes when reorganising their closets during spring. In 2017, Britons threw away roughly 235 million used clothes and around 37% of them were directly sent to the dustbin without being recycled.
While digging for the underlying reason, the fast fashion industry has received criticism from environmental advocates for producing low-quality clothes which might be damaging to the environment. Being blamed for burning 12 tonnes of unsold and usable clothes in 2017, the industry giant H&M has once again brought this topic to the public.
How Does What We Wear Impact the Environment?
Clothes waste has a greater influence on the environment than you may ever have imagined. For example, textile dyeing has become the second largest contributor to water pollution, after agriculture. Microfibres from worn-out clothes also are a threat to living creatures around lakes and oceans.
With a low recycling rate and high technology demand, what you wear may enhance your looks for a short while but may cause harm to the environment in the long-term.
How Can Used Clothes Lead You to a Sustainable Journey?
The recycling of used clothes has been put in a prominent position in city planning. While recycling e-waste and garbage classification has been widely accepted by most citizens, there is still a long way to go to build a greener concept of recycling used clothes.
According to research conducted by Sainsbury’s, 75% of consumers stated that the reason for directly discarding old clothes is that they have no idea how to handle dirty or worn-out clothes. Since almost all old clothing can be recycled and benefits the environment, economy, and reduces the energy consumption for producing similar products, the limited knowledge concerning clothing recycling is alarming.
To take the first step toward a sustainable journey and cleaning up your closet, you need to simply follow the 3R principle: “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.”
Think twice before you purchase. On the road to sustainability, all journeys start with reducing your consumption. Think twice before jumping on the next seasonal sale, which can save both your wallet and Mother Earth.
Shop more at vintage or second-hand stores, which have recently been promoted by fashion icons and Instagram influencers. The concept of vintage has gained its popularity and it is not unusual to find five-year-old clothes in a vintage store. After some good cleaning and ironing, second-hand clothing open a new avenue for reducing clothes waste. By purchasing the reused clothes, we can lower the pollution and energy-consumption rate generated by producing new clothes, while saving more clothes from the miserable landfill.
Find a new home for your used clothes: donate them to charity or offer them to a second-hand store. Compared to the total amount of clothes waste generated per year, the rate of clothes ending up at second-hand stores is still very low. However, clothes that are difficult to reuse can also find their value in becoming raw material used for other purposes, such as shopping bags, decoration rags, and stuffing material for mattresses.
It’s never too late to start a new journey to sustainability with your once beloved used clothes.