Or, at least, largely a myth.
Remember how I suggested last week that we should try to make our school-based t-shirts out of recycled textiles? And in an older post, shared my observational study on H&M’s recycling campaign? Well, my classmate Ryan shared with me a video that I’ve uploaded below (it’s around 20 minutes long, but it’s worth watching! I’ll discuss the main points of the video, so if you don’t have time to watch it, you may read on). It really changed my understanding of the textile recycling scene:
Environmentalist and author Elizabeth Cline says “The reason why H&M is focusing on textile recycling is because it’s an easy sustainability win for them. It doesn’t involve them changing their production model at all.”
She also says “Only about 1% of clothing” is actually transformed into new clothes and that accepting old clothes and “recycling” them “doesn’t make the fast-fashion system any more sustainable”.
Then where does the rest of it go?
The simple answer: landfill.
-in lower-income countries like Kenya, where burning in landfills contribute to air, water and land pollution. This leads to serious health concerns for nearby communities, including the schoolchildren who study at St John’s s School, near this landfill:
And it harms the local apparel industry, so much so that these countries wish to stop accepting used clothing.
This is a result of none other than human greed– people buying more than they need, and fast-fashion companies producing poor quality goods to raise profits, eventually having their clothes thrown away in weeks. Wealthier countries dump their waste on less affluent ones, even though this may not have been intended.
Talk about environmental injustice.
Claudia Marsales, Markham, Ontario’s senior manager of waste and environmental management, says that “it would take 12 years to recycle what they (fast-fashion outlets) make in 48 hours” because of their rapid mass production process. She says that fast-fashion outlets’ recycling campaigns are “more about foot traffic, marketing, greenwashing” as opposed to fixing the problematic fast-fashion model of business. Markham, where she works, does not even allow textiles in landfills.
And I thought that everything I put in that clothes recycling bin magically turned into brand new clothes.
Apart from that, an article I read says that textile recycling faces many obstacles, such as not having enough textile waste that can be obtained and eligible for recycling, and the cost of recycled textiles being more pricey than regular ones.
I guess making our school-based t-shirts from recycled textiles may not be possible yet.
So with end-of-year sales around the corner, I’d like to echo Marsales’ advice: buy only what you need.
Planning a shopping spree during the holidays? Stay tuned for next week’s post, where I’ll share some ideas about how to shop for clothes more sustainably.
Till then, take care, and have a great weekend! 🙂