Waste management goes way beyond what we put in our general waste bins. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the high consumption of retail apparel has done a lot of harm to our planet and will likely lead to irreversible environmental damage in the future.
The question is, how do we stop this trend from getting out of control? More urgently, what is it that you can do right now to help alleviate the damage?
To answer these questions, we need to first understand the issue at hand. We need to understand how certain clothing materials harm our planet and how ‘fast fashion’ culture perpetuates the issue. Hopefully, by getting a better grasp of the problem, we will be able to make better decisions going forward.
In this blog, we’re going to discuss the importance of textile recycling as well as proper apparel destruction. Additionally, we will be discussing what ‘fast fashion’ is and how it adversely affects our environment.
What is fast fashion?
‘Fast fashion’ is the term used to describe the business model that a number of major clothing retailers use. It involves mass producing clothing products in an effort to drive the price down and increase the number of sales. It is a highly profitable model that, unfortunately, relies on planned obsolescence, sweatshop labour and non-biodegradable materials.
As one would expect, people are buying a lot more clothes due to the lower prices brought on by fast fashion. However, because the quality of these clothes has declined, they are also being thrown away at an alarmingly fast rate.
According to the New York Times, approximately 85% of textile waste in the US ends up in landfills or is incinerated. To make matters worse, most fast fashion products are made of synthetic materials like polyester and nylon, materials that take around 200 years to decompose. Some of the plastic waste will also find its way into the ocean, adding to the pollution that’s already harming marine life.
What’s apparel destruction and recycling?
Luckily, there are various businesses and organisations that are committed to combating the negative impacts of fast fashion. Waste management service providers usually do this through apparel destruction and recycling.
The destruction and recycling process begins with sorting the discarded clothes by colour. Colour sorting results in a recycled fabric of a single solid hue, reducing the need for additional dyeing.
Once the sorting is done, the clothes are shredded and pulled into small fibres. The fibres are then re-spun, and the recycled fabric is used to make new clothes.
Why you should recycle clothes?
- Prevents contamination
Unfortunately, filling up landfills isn’t the only problem that fast fashion perpetuates. A significant number of textile manufacturers also produce plenty of toxic wastewater that contains mercury and lead. This toxic waste is often dumped into our natural water supply, harming not only the marine life but also the people who live near the contaminated waters. Eventually the contaminants will find their way into the ocean, affecting all kinds of life across the planet.
By reusing and recycling some of our clothes, we can mitigate these effects. Recycling clothes reduces the demand for new apparel, which then reduces the need to mass produce clothing. As the production numbers go down, we will also see a reduction in the use of harmful chemicals such as azo dyes, formaldehyde, cotton fertilisers and chlorinated phenols.
If you want to purchase new clothes, be sure to choose retailers that use natural fibres for their clothes. Also, make sure that their manufacturing methods don’t use any of the chemicals mentioned above.
- Reduces emissions of greenhouse gasses
According to The Economist, for every 1 kg of apparel that’s manufactured, 23 kg of greenhouse gasses are released. In fact, the apparel industry alone is responsible for around 10% of the planet’s carbon emissions. To make matters worse, the synthetic fibres commonly used in our clothes also emit nitrous oxide (N20). As per the Nature Climate Change journal, N20 has been the most prominent ozone-depleting gas in recent decades.
Even if your discarded clothes don’t end up in the landfills, they will most likely be incinerated. Since nylon and polyesters are made from non-renewable fossil fuels, the incineration of these materials will release even more greenhouse gases.
Once again, you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reusing and recycling your clothes. But we get it, sometimes recycling clothes can be a time-consuming process. If you find yourself too occupied, you can always hire a waste management company to do the dirty work for you. Just make sure their apparel destruction and recycling services are genuinely sustainable and eco-friendly.
- Protects our soil
By disposing of your old clothes through more sustainable methods, you’re also preventing soil degradation.
Plenty of agricultural practices cause erosion and degradation by reducing the amount of organic carbon within the soil. In the fashion industry, this is often seen in cotton cultivation. Cotton cultivation involves using fertilisers and other chemicals that depletes the soil of its natural nutrients. Eventually, the soil will become unproductive, and the cotton fields will have to be expanded. Unfortunately, such expansions often lead to deforestation and other processes that destroy natural habitats.
Choosing to buy those new pants might not seem environmentally significant. However, it’s important to think about where a piece of clothing may have come from. It’s also essential that you think about where your old clothes are going to end up. By putting a little bit more thought in the way we buy and discard our clothes, we’re taking a significant step towards a better environment. Of course, if you need assistance with apparel recycling or destruction, there are plenty of reliable waste management companies that you can hire.