When it comes to recycling our waste, we typically think of plastic bottles, coffee cups and other food and beverage packaging. Articles of clothing are not often considered recyclable items and our unused garments are usually thrown in the trash. 60% of clothing ends up in landfill within one year of purchasing. Both synthetic and natural fibres can take hundreds of years to decompose in landfill and release GHG emissions that contribute to climate change. For every 1 kg of textiles that decay in landfill, there are 4 kg of carbon dioxide emitted.
But, did you know that nearly all of your old clothing can be recycled? Even your torn clothes can go to your local donation bin along with household textiles and clean, dry garments, shoes and accessories. Many stores including Mango and H&M have implemented take back programs as well. Items that are wearable can be resold and those that are not can be recycled. In this context, â€œrecycleâ€ means breaking them down into raw materials, such as fibre or shreds, to be made into something else.
Creating new garments from recycled clothing is a whole other process, however. Textile recycling technology is still in the very early stages complicated by the fact that most of our garments are made from blended fibres. To learn the difference between clothing made from recycled materials and clothing that can itself be recycled, watch How Plastic Bottles are Recycled into Polyester. You can look for garments and shoes made from recycled materials when shopping and be conscious of packaging that often cannot be recycled.
Image: The Star
Last year, Markham, Ontario became the first city in North America to ban clothing waste from curb-side garbage collection, making textile recycling mandatory. The recycling program is saving hundreds of thousands of dollars for the city and within its first year, 1.4 million kg of textiles were diverted from landfill.
The more clothing we divert, the more we can reuse, repair and recycle materials, and the more we can decrease our climate footprint. But, responsibly discarding our old clothing is not the end-all solution to our textile waste problem. Reducing the sheer amount of clothing we purchase in the first place and shifting away from our disposable fast fashion habits is our best solution.