5 Ways To Reduce Textile Waste

Waste is going to be one of the next biggest problems for the fashion and textiles industry. Last year the worldwide consumption of textiles reached about 73 million tonnes and is expected to grow at nearly 4% annually through 2025 (APIC 2014), yet only 20% of textiles are recycled each year around the world (Soex presentation at Textile Exchange conference 2014).

The average UK household owns around £4,000 worth of clothes, and about 30% of it hasn’t worn in the last year. (recyclatex)
Textile waste categorised into two different types:

1) Pre-consumer; the leftover materials from the production of clothing and

2) Post-consumer; what is discarded by consumers after use.

1) Pre-consumer; the remaining materials from the manufacture of clothing.

It is estimated that a single textile mill can produce from 5% up to 25% of pre-consumer textile waste on its total yearly production. The local market often absorbs over-production runs and liability stock from manufacturers and mills or sold via third parties. Damaged clothing and discarded rolls of branded and/or recognisable fabrics are regularly slashed, landfilled and incinerated to protect intellectual property and brand image. This reality is hidden. Investigative reporters have tried and failed to find out what really happens with pre-consumer waste. In the UK, roughly two million tonnes of clothing and textiles are thrown away every year, and only 16% of that waste is reused. That’s approximately £140 million worth of waste. Meanwhile, 80% of textile waste going to landfills can be reused (WRAP, 2015).

2) Post-consumer; what is discarded by consumers after use.
Post-consumer waste can be a garment that the owner does not require anymore and has decided to discard. Facts:
• The average lifetime of a piece of clothing is only about 3 years.
• When it comes to textile waste, the consumer is the biggest culprit. In the U.S., only 15% of post-consumer textile waste gets recycled.
• Every year, 3.8 billion pounds of unnecessary waste from recyclable textiles are added to our landfills.
• Clothing and household textiles currently make up 5.2% of the waste in landfills.
• Up to 95% of the textiles that are landfilled each year could be recycled.
• Recycling clothing and textiles decrease the use of natural resources, such as water used in growing crops and petroleum used in creating new clothing and textiles. It also reduces the need for chemicals used in manufacturing new textiles and the pollution caused by the manufacturing process.
• Of the clothing donated to charity in the UK, only 10-30% is re-sold; the rest gets exported overseas. In Uganda, some 81% of all clothes sold today are castoffs from the west. It is widely reported that this influx of second-hand clothing to developing countries is destroying local textile and tailoring economies (BBC News, 2015)

How to manage your garment waste:

Most of the times we think that a bag of old clothes will be easy to sell for a few pounds, so try to sell them. Unfortunately, most likely is that our old clothes, even the ones we paid dearly for, will be rejected because of small flaws or no longer being in season. With fast fashion speeding up trends and shortening seasons, our clothing is quite likely dated if it’s more than a year old. Many second-hand shops will reject items from fast-fashion chains like Forever 21, H&M, Zara, Topshop etc. The inexpensive clothing is of poor quality, with little resale value, and there is just too much of it. The average UK household owns around £4,000 worth of clothes, and about 30% of it hasn’t worn in the last year.
Below you can find a list of ideas that may help you minimise your clothing waste.

5 easy ways to reduce your clothing waste:

1. Wear your clothes for longer. Ask the experts for new ways to mix and match your clothes and accessories. Restyling existing outfits and garments with different accessories or trying new colour combinations can have great results. You can look online for inspiration.

2. Get swapping with your friends or find swapping events near you.

3. Upcycle your garments. Think of clever uses for different items of clothing.
I use cotton vests instead of dust clothes (easy to wash and I don’t spend money to buy the branded ones from the shops).
I wear my faded garments as loungewear.
Also, tops that are getting small are perfect for layering.
A dress/shirt/trousers with a great pattern can be transformed into a cushion or a tea towel etc.
A few of my not so flattering/unwanted scarves and tops can make a statement belt.
Use the fabric and make children’s outfits.
Donate them to a school to be used for their projects.

4. Update/Transform/Customise them into a different piece of clothing
Examples: Create denim shorts from an unwanted pair of jeans. Change the buttons on a shirt/coat or add a belt on a coat. If you can’t sew, you can take them to a tailor for altering.
You can also: raise the hems, change necklines, belts, add embellishments, remove sleeves, distress, over-dye, adjust the fit.
5. Recycle/donate. Finally, if you can’t do any of the above, you can still choose to recycle or donate your old garments/fabrics. Use the online service (loveyourclothes.org.uk/recycle-your-clothes) and locate your nearest recycling places.

Check out my Ethical Fashion Brand Directory here

Elena Daniilidou

Elena is an ethical vegan and minimalist advocating for sustainable and slow living.

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