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A waste of fashion


Thursday, November 30, 2017

It was probably about a year ago that I passed by my friend while she was making a rug out of old clothes, when I asked her why, she explained to me that there is an overabundance of textiles in the world. She told me about how this is actually starting to become a problem, so she was trying to find a new purpose for left over textiles or old clothes. It was an issue that never really occurred to me before but immediately caught my attention because it’s so obvious if you think about it. 

The attitude that people have towards clothing has changed, fashion trends move quick, every year there are new collections from every brand, stores filled monthly, or even weekly. And we all buy into it. The average person buys 60% more garments that last half a year compared to fifteen years ago. The way of production has changed as well, the materials are cheaper and made not to last very long. Next to that the production has inflated massively, according to Greenpeace the production has doubled from the year 2000 to 2014 and the number of garments exceeded 100 billion by 2014. A lot of clothes that are being made don’t even make it to the shops, they were made to have enough in stock even though the shops are often overstocked already. The clothes that don’t sell fast go into sale, but 4,2% stays behind after the sale. That doesn’t sound like much but we’re talking about 21,5 million new pieces of clothing, from which 1,23 million pieces get destroyed. They get burned in ovens or shredded because they don’t want these clothes to be used or resold. 

Next to the overproduction of the fashion industry, we have our fair share of throwing away textiles as well, the average person throws away about thirty kilos of clothing per year, this is roughly eight trash bags a year, even though 95% of the clothes we chug away is still reusable. Not only the clothes that get thrown away cause problems but donation in some cases as well. The clothes that are donated to charity and can’t get sold in charity shops are shipped off to third world countries. In some of those countries, here it gets sold for so cheap that the local tailors can’t compete anymore and have to go out of business

The waste that the left over and thrown away textile produce is polluting the environment and is practically toxic waste. Since the clothes are produced so cheaply the fabrics are often synthetic and the dyes are toxic. The clothes that get burned release a lot of chemicals in the air. The clothes that get thrown away  often end up in landfills. Since they’re not biodegradable they just keep staggering up, causing an environmental hazard. The textiles chemicals and toxins get absorbed by the soil, polluting both the surface and the ground water. It also releases methane into the air which contributes to global warming.

So now what do we do? What can we do about this? There might be a few options. One of them is instead of throwing away the old clothes that we’re sick of, or never wear anymore, remake them into something new. This is what for example Viktor and Rolf did for the Boulevard of Broken Dreams collection of 2017. They used pieces and materials of left over material, pieces and damaged items of previous collections.

 

 

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And Italian company Marchi & Fildi turns old fabrics, in this case pre-dyed cotton textile scraps that are left over in the fashion companies to make a new recycled yarn, Ecotech. But also the company Evrnu found a way to turn cotton waste into a new fiber, by first turning it into a pulp. With these approaches cotton waste is being saved and a new durable material is created for fashion designers to work with.

 

It makes me happy to see that there are several initiatives that try to find small solutions to this problem, but I think this is an issue that deserves way more attention. What I talked about here is just a small part, the textile industry is after the oil industry the most wasteful industry. The damage is unbelievable, on environmental but also on a social level. Andrew Morgan made an incredible documentary about this subject called ‘The True Cost’ that I would definitely recommend. I hope we can find a way to stop this problem before it’s too late. I think awareness of the problem is the first step and I hope that now people are becoming aware, we can take the next one. To help you start I will leave you with some tips from the Oxford City Council to make your clothes last longer.

 

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