The company is funding a contest where research teams at universities can pitch their environmental idea to win funding to develop it further. It’s also providing an initial 500 tonnes of textile waste to Lenzing, the Australian manufacturer of the plant-based textile fibre TENCEL™ Lyocell, which will use it in manufacturing its materials.
Other textile recycling schemes seem to operate in partnership with charities who already trade in secondhand clothing – M&S run a scheme with Oxfam, and Zara runs one with multiple charities including Oxfam, the Red Cross and Spanish charity Cáritas.
Isn’t it about time clothing companies took financial responsibility for the waste they are creating? Recycling and reusing clothing has a cost. After all, it’s the companies who drive our increasing clothing purchases, and persuade us we need MORE clothes when our wardrobes are already full to bursting.
A more convincing effort might involve allocating an ongoing share of their profits to fund large-scale textile recycling solutions, providing consumers with information on how the use and disposal of clothing affects the environment, and perhaps rethinking the frequency and durability of their clothing collections.
Extending the life of your clothes
The way you wash your clothes has a huge environmental impact, second only to that of creating brand new fibres and fabrics. WRAP say that, since 2012, the carbon footprint of clothing in the UK has been reduced by 700,000 tonnes CO2, thanks to people washing their clothes at lower temperatures, and ironing and tumble drying less frequently.
As raw denim aficionados will attest, jeans only need to be washed every few years (or some say never!). But we could probably save on washes with most garments by airing them between wears. Line drying and washing at a lower temperature lessens the impact, as well as keeping clothes looking good for longer.
Each extra nine months of active use reduces the carbon, water and waste footprints of a garment by around 20-30% each – provided it substitutes a new purchase, thus avoiding the impacts of new fibre production.
Try and hold on to your older clothes for longer – repair them if they get a hole or the fastenings break. The most sustainable clothes are the ones we already have. A societal shift is required in order to embrace this attitude fully. Mending is often seen as embarrassing or scruffy in our society, but inspiration can be found in patchwork Japanese Boro textiles, or the intricate knitwear repair work of Tom of Holland’s Visible Mending Programme.
The mended look isn’t for everyone, but if more of us could learn to love and appreciate clothes which show signs of wear and repair, we’d be in a better position to challenge the dominance of the fast fashion business model.
When you feel the need for something fresh, rather than buy something, could you repurpose an item you already have, or try wearing it a different way? Jeans with holes on the knees can become shorts, or work shirts with worn collars can become a round-neck summer top. Get creative, pool your resources and share old clothes with friends and family. Upcycling offers a way to use your old clothes in new ways without resorting to getting rid of them.
If you really don’t want to wear an item anymore, but it still has some use left, head to a local clothes swap or ‘swishing’ event – there are events all over the country listed on swishing.com. Swaps are a great way to switch up your wardrobe without adding yet more items in. And they help keep clothes in use for longer.
Using every last scrap
Some items of clothing are simply not made to last, and there will come a time when your garment is no longer fit to be seen out in! Of course, you could donate it, but textiles are a precious resource and there are loads of things you can make your old clothes into. Pet beds, kids stuffed toys, reusable shopping and veg bags, gift bags for wrapping, wax food wraps.
Even when you get down to the smaller scraps you can make rag rugs or an heirloom quilt, save squares for patching holes or simply use them as cleaning rags. Plenty of these projects can be completed with just a pair of scissors, a needle and thread.
But if you’re not confident in going it alone, there are plenty of places you can learn to sew and even pick up specialist skills like clothing repairs and upcycling. The Love Your Clothes website has a list of ‘SuperCrafters’ across the UK where you can learn sewing and textile skills. And the links box below has some interesting reading to get you inspired to make more from your clothes.