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Textile waste

Textile Waste: Bursting at the Seams

I get highs, to be totally honest, in second-hand shops.  My hunting instinct, I expect, really kicks in.              -Bjork-

There has been a lot of press lately about all the waste created by the clothes that we buy.  I abhor waste so I try to purchase as many items as I can in thrift stores.  I even found an outfit in a consignment shop to wear at my daughter’s wedding next month—clutch and all!  Both my daughters feel the way I do and get a lot of clothes second hand.  I wish that more of us would.

Recently, I came across this article that opened my eyes to the many problems around textile waste.  They explain that here in Canada we only resell or recycle 15% of our textiles.  Which means that the other 85% ends up in landfills.  I find that shocking!  Also, I didn’t realize that many countries—even in Africa—now have used clothing bans!  We have clothed everyone around the world, people!!! 

A Kinship of Clothing

Have you ever been to a thrift store to buy your clothes or linens?  If not, please give it a try, we need to change those statistics!  Don’t worry about the fact that someone else wore them before you.  You can wash your items and give them a good airing out on a rack or clothesline before using them.  Please don’t disdain the fact that someone owned and wore the clothes before you.  More than ever, this world needs us to come together, to see ourselves as brothers and sisters.  And brothers and sisters share clothes! 😉

Mexican blanket
Guatemalan weave

Recycling Clothing is No Picnic

Back to those statistics.   Of the 15% of textiles that are not sent to landfills, half is sold in thrift stores and the other half is recycled.  In order to do this, zippers, buttons and the like need to be removed but it doesn’t end there.  Sorting the textiles is extremely complicated.  Apparel is often made from different fabrics that need to be separated—think of a coat with its shell, lining, insulation and embellishments.  Many of the fabrics are made with fibre blends.  What further complicates the process are all the chemicals used at different stages of the manufacturing process.  Unlike fibre blends, these chemicals are not labelled and can influence the way the fabric needs to be processed.

A Fabulous Nonprofit

Despite the disappointing statistics and the difficulties, there are some great initiatives out there.  My cousin Michele, who lives in Brooklyn, volunteers at FabScrap.  Vogue just recently posted an article (here) about this wonderful facility which repurposes fabrics from the clothing industry that would otherwise end up in landfills. 

Check us out in this photo, taken on my family farm.  I’m on the left wearing a thrift store dress.  Michele, who is a whiz at sewing, is wearing a dress she made from some fabric she earned by volunteering at Fabscrap.  A linen knit, no less.  I didn’t even know that existed!

My daughter Jade has a friend who has decided to only buy clothes made here in Canada.  That must be very challenging.  It is also expensive as we have fewer manufacturers and labor costs are higher.  But Jade argues that if we all paid more for our clothes, we would buy less and take better care of them.  Quality over quantity, another solution!

I would love to know what kinds of solutions you’ve come up with so as to avoid wasting textiles.   Leave a comment here or on Facebook.  Also, you can check out my article on a similar topic:  Women, Shopping and Beauty.

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