“Blinding ignorance does mislead us. O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!” – Leonardo da Vinci
5 Fast Facts about Textile Recycling
1. “What is the use of a house if you don’t have a decent planet to put it on?” – Henry David Thoreau
The WWF report for 2016 warns that “Nature and the services it provides to humanity are subject to increasing risk. By 2012, the biocapacity equivalent of 1.6 earths was needed to provide the natural resources and services humanity consumed in that year”
The textile industry is one of the largest polluters in the world. According to a World Bank estimate, almost 20% of global industrial water pollution comes from the treatment and dyeing of textiles. About 72 toxic chemicals reach our water supply from textile dyeing, many of which cannot be filtered or removed.
Wastewater discharged by the textile industry contains chemicals such as formaldehyde (HCHO), chlorine and heavy metals such as lead and mercury. The damages are environmental degradation and human disease.
2. Landfill disposal of textile waste is not only about space.
A landfill is a waste disposal site that contains garbage to prevent contamination between the waste and the surrounding environment, especially groundwater. Landfills contain minimal amounts of oxygen and moisture, so they are not designed to breakdown trash, but to bury it.
In North America alone, consumers are buying and discarding five times as much clothing as they did 25 years ago. About 85% of this ends up in landfills.Even though the modern world needs more and more landfill space for its waste, textile waste in landfills is not a problem of space merely.
Textile waste forms leachate as it decomposes, often contaminating groundwater through leakage.The decomposition of organic fibres and yarn such as wool produces large amounts of ammonia and methane. Ammonia is highly toxic in both terrestrial and aquatic environments, and can be toxic in gaseous form. Methane, if uncollected, significantly impacts global warming.
In places where textile waste is incinerated in large quantities, harmful substances such as dioxins, heavy metals, acidic gases and dust particles are emitted.
3. Customer is king. A little goes a long way.
In modern, free-market economy, “customer is king” is a commonly held business mantra. In the context of recycling textile, the customer has been found to be the worst offender.
Studies have found that only 15 percent of post-consumer clothing is recycled in contrast to over 75 percent pre-use clothing recycled by manufacturers.
Equally, the customer has the power to control the percentage of post-consumer textile that ends up in the landfill.
One in five British throws away a piece of clothing after single use.In America, the average lifetime of a piece of clothing is 3 years.Extending the average life of clothing by just three months of active use per item would lead toa five to ten percent reduction in the carbon, water and waste footprints of the average American household.
4. Global trade in secondhand clothing. The Africans do not want want it all.
As cheap, fast fashion caught on in the Western world, trade in secondhand clothes became common in the informal markets in Africa, even accounting for the majority of clothing sales in some countries. Today. more than 70 percent of the world’s population uses secondhand clothing.
In 2010, the US exported over 100,000,000 kg of used clothing to Central America. In Honduras this meant 28 kg per Honduran. Simply much more secondhand clothing than the world needs. Moreover, African nations have proposed phasing out trade in used garments in a bid to bolster their local economies by revitalising the apparel industry and creating jobs.
Donating it isn’t a solution to managing textile consumption and waste. It is not an alternative to buying less and throwing less.
4. Recycled Polyester Vs Cotton. Nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.
While natural cotton fibre is completely biodegradable, it can take over 20,000 litres of water to produce cotton for a single T-shirt and pair of jeans. 2.4% of the world’s crop land is planted with cotton and yet it accounts for 24% and 11% of the global sales of insecticide and pesticides respectively.
On the other hand, polyester fibre is made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource that creates damaging environmental impacts during the extraction process. However, In the whole lifecycle of the fibre, from the raw materials, through the use phase to the end of the lifecycle, polyester has lower energy impacts during the washing and cleaning phase and is also completely recyclable at the end of its life.
“It’s not too late at all. You just don’t know yet what you are capable of” – Mahatma Gandhi
Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion By Elizabeth Cline