Just as we are passionate about what we wear everyday, we need to be equally dedicated to figuring out the life cycle of our garments. We are happy that society as a whole is more aware of the importance of recycling: our trash cans are labeled “trash” & “recycle”, we’ve gone paperless, our water bottles are made up of less plastic, and grocery stores are charging customers for shopping bags in efforts to get them to switch to re-usable bags. If we care so much about paper, plastic & water, then we should be aware of another element that makes up a large percentage of our landfills: textiles.
Thanks to affordable fast-fashion retailers such as H&M and Zara, who have showed their consumer that they care about the environment by using organic cotton and reusable hangers, it is easier for the consumer to contribute to the growing number of textiles in our landfills today. It’s important that as the consumer, we know that it takes about 2,000 liters of water to produce 2.2 pounds of cotton -enough to produce ONE pair of jeans and that it takes nylon fabric 30-40 years to decompose. By being aware of the life cycle of our garments, we can help reduce the existence of textile in the landfills.
The obvious alternative to throwing away clothes is donating or repurposing them for your personal re-use. Even though Zara and H&M aren’t using harsh chemicals in the making of textiles, or using pesticides for cotton, they should take note from companies such as Nike & the GAP, who have educated their customers on the importance of proper textile disposal. Nike has collected consumers’ old Nike products to send off to get properly disposed; the GAP has given their customer great deals on new jeans when they take in their old jeans. If we ever want to make a difference, we must start in our own homes.
About 95% of textiles thrown out are recyclable, and 85% of it still ends up in landfills. You research organization in your city that help recycle textiles or visit Charity Navigator to help you properly dispose of your unwanted textiles.