This is something that everyone should be thinking about and treating seriously. I totally agreed with the statements coming from some parts of the fashion industry a couple of weeks ago, admitting that far too many clothes are being manufactured and many of them will end up being destroyed without having ever been worn.
Many of the figures quoted are guesses but the amount of wastage has to be significant, which means vast amounts of clean water, heat, power, etc are also wasted throughout the many various processes that are involved in producing a garment and getting it into the shops, to then end up being destroyed.
One example I read was that it takes more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just one T-shirt and one pair of jeans. Waste is at the very heart of fashion. It occurs all along the supply chain, throughout consumer use, right up to the end-of-use disposal. Underscoring this physical journey of waste is the central idea of ‘being in or out of fashion’ – embedding the notion that it’s acceptable to discard a garment regardless of whether it is still functionally useful or not.
One pundit I watched on TV suggested that when considering purchasing an item of clothing, a person should ask themselves, “Will I wear this at least 30 times?”, and if the answer is, “No”, then don’t buy it.
I know that in reality most items we purchase can be worn many more than 30 times and in that respect it is a realistic suggestion but I think many people would not like it to be forced upon them.
Here are some Interesting Facts About Textile and Garment Recycling I copied from the Internet, to make us think about the issue.
More than 15 million tons of used textile waste is generated each year in the United States, and the amount has doubled over the last 20 years. In 2014, over 16 million tons of textile waste was generated, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Of this amount, 2.62 million tons were recycled, 3.14 million tons were combusted for energy recovery, and 10.46 million tons were sent to the landfill.
Only about 0.1% of recycled fibre collected by charities and take-back programs is recycled into new textile fibre.
Consumers are regarded as the main culprit for throwing away their used clothing, as only 15 percent of consumer-used clothing is recycled, whereas more than 75 percent of pre-use clothing is recycled by the manufacturers.
The average person buys 60 percent more items of clothing every year and keeps them for about half as long as 15 years ago, generating a huge amount of waste.
The average lifetime of a piece of clothing is approximately 3 years.
Nearly 100 percent of textiles and clothing are recyclable.
If the average life of clothing was extended by just three months, it would reduce their carbon and water footprints, as well as waste generation, by five to 10 percent.
More than 70 percent of the world’s population uses second-hand clothing. About 50 percent of collected shoes and clothing is used as second-hand products. Meanwhile, 20 percent is used to produce polishing and cleaning cloths for various industrial purposes, and 26 percent is recycled for applications such as fibre for insulation products, upholstery, fibreboard, and mattresses.
The United States textile recycling industry removes approximately 2.5 billion pounds of post-consumer textiles each year from the waste stream, and the industry creates more than 17,000 jobs. Among this workforce, 10,000 are semi-skilled workers employed in the primary processing of used textile; the remaining 7,000 employees are employed in the final processing stage. There are more than 500 garment-recycling companies in the U.S. and a majority of these companies are owned and operated by small and family businesses, each of which employs 35 to 50 workers.
As per the Council for Textile Recycling, nearly one-half of used clothing is given to charities by the general public. Charities distribute and sell this clothing free of charge or at low prices. And 61 percent of reusable and recyclable textiles are exported to other countries.
All these facts indicate the textile recycling industry in the United States has great potential to expand, given that 85 percent of used textiles still go to national landfills. The next steps involve increased initiatives to promote recycling, as well as harmonization of collection efforts.
I imagine that the USA is ahead of some countries and behind others, when it comes to recycling clothing so these examples, in percentage terms, might be a fair indication of the situation globally. Even if it isn’t, one thing is certain, there are significant opportunities for the nations and people of the world to enable a phenomenally positive environmental impact when it comes to buying, wearing and recycling clothing.
JHL MBE SSL Co. Chairman