Clothing is an everyday necessity and a great way to express your individuality to the world. Whether you’re into the latest trends or simply like comfort, many never consider where their clothing ends up after they discard it. The statistics for clothing waste will shock you! The global textile industry is worth about $3,000 trillion but the fashion industry is also a major contributor to textile waste and carbon emissions. This industry is responsible for at least 10% of all global pollution, making it one of the least sustainable industries behind aviation. You may be wondering what you can do to help cut down on this sustainability issue, check out these 4 ways to combat clothing waste.
How Much Clothing Is Wasted?
In the United States alone, 85% of textiles are thrown away, that’s roughly 13 million tons of clothing waste that is either dumped in landfills or burned. Globally, an estimated 92 million tons of textile waste is created each year. To put that into perspective, that is equivalent to sending a garbage truck full of clothing to a landfill every second. The fashion industry also uses very high volumes of non-renewable resources such as petroleum, which are then also discarded in landfills. Also 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions and 20% of all water waste are made by the textile industry. If the fashion industry continues down this path it’s estimated that globally we will discard more than 134 tons of textile waste per year.
Did you know that 1 in 2 people throw their unwanted clothing straight into the trash? It’s true, this results in about 64% of the total amount of clothing waste in landfills. Clothing actually takes decades to degrade, and while in the process they emit harmful greenhouse gasses. While you may automatically think of clothing producers being responsible for most of that textile waste, it’s just not true. As consumers we play a much bigger role in clothing waste, in fact only 15% of consumer-used clothing is recycled. That’s compared to 75% of pre-use clothing from manufacturers being recycled. You can help reduce fashion waste in a number of simple ways.
Clothes recycling can make a huge impact. In fact, the recycling of 26.2 million tons of clothing per year equates to taking 1.3 million cars from the streets. The current textile recycling rate is among the lowest compared to other recyclable materials. However, things like stained sweatshirts, worn jeans, and mismatched socks and other textile waste can be given a whole new life by recycling. They can be made into brand new clothing, stuffed animals, or even housing insulation. Retailers such as Madewell, H&M, and the North Face make clothes recycling incredibly easy as they have in store recycling containers.
A great first step is to check to see if your city has a textile collection bin where you can dump the clothing waste that you no longer want. The clothing will then be sorted and either donated or recycled. It’s important to check in advance on how the collected clothing is recycled. It may surprise you to find out that some recycled clothing is not organized well. Unfortunately, unorganized recycled clothing from western countries often ends up in being sent to Africa. The clothing is then put into landfills in Africa.
Donating your gently used clothing to a charitable organization is a great way to cut down on clothing waste. Keep in mind that donated clothing should be in good condition, not broken or dirty. These charitable organizations also recycle any clothing that they can’t sell. If your clothing is not in good condition then consider recycling, mentioned above. In the U.S. check out Salvation Army or Good Will. There are also companies like ThredUp that are online consignment stores and thrift shops rolled into one. These places are helpful to both your wallet and the environment.
3. Rent Clothing
There are certain special occasions that require new outfits such as weddings, job interviews or business meetings. For these occasions consider renting clothing instead of buying new clothing. Companies like Rent The Runway allow you to rent a brand new outfit while saving all of the precious resources it takes to manufacture new clothing. It also cuts down on clothing waste ending up in landfills while allowing you to stay up on current fashion trends.
4. Be A Minimalist
When it comes to clothing it’s easy to over purchase. In the past 15 years the average consumer is believed to buy 60% more pieces of clothing. Unfortunately, the more clothing you buy, the less you are wearing all of your clothing. A great sustainable way to combat this type of clothing waste is to be minimalist when it comes to clothing. Reevaluate your current wardrobe, but when cleaning out your closet make sure to donate, recycle, or sell your used clothing. Also, when purchasing new make sure to check out recycled clothing first.
Brands That Use Clothes Recycling
The more conscious consumers become about textile waste, the more brands pay attention and are moving toward clothes recycling. Here are some examples of brands that are making more sustainable efforts. Patagonia launched a new program called Worn Wear that allows you to buy, sell, and trade second hand Patagonia goods. H&M offers recycling services in 4,200 stores world wide. Madewell also has a recycling program, but this one uses recycled jeans as housing insulation.
Use these 4 ways to combat clothing waste in order to live a more sustainable and eco friendly lifestyle. Don’t let textile waste affect our planet in a negative way by making these small changes today!
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