It Makes Big difference to recycle. It makes a big difference to use recycled products. It makes a big difference to reuse things, to not use the paper cup – and each time you do, that’s a victory – Emily Deschanel

Growing up in early 80’s in northern India, we were allowed to have limited clothes. Couple white shirts and blue trousers for school and few more to wear at home. My upbringing, as far as clothes is concerned, followed one principle: Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do. That was same with every kid in a middle-class family. We knew the fashion, but fast fashion didn’t exist back in those days. We never-ever trashed clothes.

Fast forward it by 3 decades, things changed globally. Fast fashion is prevalent almost everywhere now. In western world, fast fashion has become a part of life.

Fast fashion provides the marketplace with affordable apparel aimed mostly at young women. Fueling the demand are fashion magazines that help create the desire for new “must-haves” for each season. “Girls especially are insatiable when it comes to fashion. They have to have the latest thing, always. And since it is cheap, you buy more of it. Our closets are full,” says Mayra Diaz, mother of a 10-year-old girl and a buyer in the fashion district of New York City. Disposable couture appears in shopping mall after shopping mall in America and Europe at prices that make the purchase tempting and the disposal painless.   

Article published in Huffington Post on October 7, 2016 states that in 2013 alone, Americans discarded 15.1 million tons of clothing and other textiles, and 85 percent of that wound up in landfills.

That’s a bad thing, and not just because your old clothes could have been reused or recycled rather than being stuck in the ground. And not just because there are better uses for the land that landfills occupy ― or because transporting textile waste to landfills is so costly.

You see, all those baggy trousers and stained shirts in landfills don’t just lie there forever. They decompose. As they do, they release landfill gas, a toxic brew of air pollutants that includes the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane. 

ON POWELL/NATURE/ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY: Map showing the locations of landfills in the contiguous 48 states. Each blue dot represents a landfill. The dot’s size corresponds to the amount of waste the landfill accepted in 2013.    

There are about 1,200 municipal solid waste landfills in the United States, Jon Powell, a doctoral student in chemical and environmental engineering at Yale University and an expert on landfills informs. About 900 of these have vacuum systems that collect landfill gas for burning or to produce electricity.

But a lot of landfill gas is simply vented into the atmosphere. In fact, landfills are the third-largest source of methane emissions in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Methane is known to be 28 times more efficient than carbon dioxide at trapping heat, Powell said. That means it poses a huge global warming problem.

As per a report published in The Guardian on April 6, 2017, Rebecca Smithers highlights that a predicted 235m items of Britons’ unwanted clothing are expected to end up in landfill unnecessarily this spring, according to new research.

Three-quarters of consumers admit to binning their discarded garments, usually because they do not realize that worn-out or dirty clothes can be recycled or accepted by charities, a survey of 2,000 people commissioned by the supermarket Sainsbury’s has found.

Over the past 10 years, clothing has been the fastest growing waste stream in the UK. In partnership with the charity Oxfam, Sainsbury’s is urging consumers to donate unwanted clothes to its collection points alongside the traditional recycling bins in its store car parks.

The study also uncovered the reasons people do not donate or recycle clothing, with 49% saying they did not think they could because the clothes were worn out or dirty. A further 16% said they did not have time to visit a charity shop, or could not be bothered to sort items, while 6% did not realize clothing could be recycled.

The importance of recycling textiles is increasingly being recognized. Over 80 billion garments are produced annually, worldwide. In 2010, about five percent of the U.S. municipal waste stream was textile scrap, totaling 13.1 million tons. The recovery rate for textiles is still only 15 percent. In Canada, for example, over $30 billion is spent on new clothing each year, translating to approximately 1.13 billion garments, and with an average growth rate of 5.16 percent per annum. On average, Canadians discard seven kilograms (over 15 lbs.) of clothing per capita each year. Textiles constitute five percent of municipal solid waste by weight.

What can we do to protect our only livable planet earth?

Choose clothing designed to last longer, buying second-hand clothes, using energy-efficient laundry methods that keep clothes looking good, as well as donating, swapping or selling unwanted items. Clothes too damaged to be worn can still be donated for recycling instead of ending up in the bin.

Recycling clothes (or any kind of textiles) offers the following environmental benefits:

  • Decreases landfill space requirements, bearing in mind that synthetic fiber products do not decompose
  • Avoided use of virgin fibers
  • Reduced consumption of energy and water
  • Pollution avoidance
  • Lessened demand for synthetic dyes and chemicals

Buy wise, buy less. Whatever you buy, make sure you use it enough. Once done, give it to someone who can reuse and appreciate. Don’t trash. Donate and recycle.



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