From Monday, October 21st through to Sunday, October 27th, MASS Environmental Services Inc. will be celebrating Waste Reduction Week In Canada. During this week, we will be publishing several blog posts that go along with the “Theme Days” of this initiative. If there is something you’d like to hear us talk about when it comes to waste diversion or reduction, please comment and let us know. Most importantly, don’t forget to follow along on our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & LinkedIn to keep up with us we we recognize this important week.
What Is Textile Waste?
Textile waste is made up of fabric, clothing, or other textile material that goes to waste. This waste is created because it is deemed unusable by it’s owner, and not entered into the circular economy by an alternative means of re-use.
Who Creates Textile Waste?
Waste is created at nearly every point of the life cycle of the textile life cycle.
It is created during fibre, textile, and clothing production, in the same way that food scraps are created in a restaurant kitchen. Bits and pieces of material that are not used often end up going to waste
It is created in the transportation process, when textiles or clothing become damaged.
It is created in the distribution phase, when overproduction creates an excess, resulting in material being disposed of or incinerated.
It is created as consumer waste, when everyday people dispose of textiles and clothing in their own homes; whether that be an old dishcloth that’s been replaced, or a souvenir t-shirt that is no longer worn.
It is created when we donate old clothing to overburdened thrift shops that cannot sell the mountains of donations they have in stock, and are forced to send clothing to landfill due to it’s poor condition, or their limited storage space.
It is created when we buy new bed sheets, and dispose of our old ones. When someone tears a hole in their jeans, and we toss rather than repair. When kids outgrow their sweaters year after year. When bags full of hand-me-downs are dropped off at your house, full of clothing your child definitely does not need. It is created when we purchase a blouse from our favourite fast-fashion online retailer, only to see the damage of wear-and-tear after just a few uses.
It’s a problem defined by overproduction and over consumption, and it is a problem that is exponentially increasing every day.
Why Is Textile Waste A Problem?
Today, we are buying and discarding clothing at a rate that is five times greater than we did 25 years ago. Estimates suggest that in North America alone, we are sending 9.5 million tonnes of clothing to landfill every year. If our team here at MASS were to fall in line with the average textile waste disposal, our staff members would be creating a combined total of 481 kilograms (1060 pounds) of textile waste each year. Need some perspective? That is the weight of a grand piano…
Take into context our limited remaining landfill space and consider where all of this material is going. In 2018, over 100 billion articles of clothing were produced globally. However, so much of this clothing is fated to only be worn for one short season before being tossed away. Beyond the disposal problem, the overproduction that fuels our ‘throw-away culture’ is contributing to climate change. The United Nations estimates that 10 percent of total global emissions come from the fashion industry. The entire production process is hurting our planet, with the dyes polluting our waterways, and the materials needed for rayon, modal, and viscose contributing to deforestation. Meanwhile, when we bring our clothing home, our polyester fabrics are distributing micro-fibres into our washing machines, that eventually their way into our drinking water and aquatic food chains (including the fish we eat!).
The water resources needed to create one single cotton t-shirt are estimated to be the same as one person’s drinking water for two-and-a-half years. This seems crazy when we consider that we definitely already have more than enough cotton t-shirts in existence to clothe the human population. Why are we producing more? Why are we purchasing more?
These are the questions we must ask ourselves as direct players in the textile waste chain. Every article of clothing we wear marks a decision that we have made. It is important that those decisions be well-informed.
What Can I Do?
The most simple and straightforward step to reducing textile waste is to make the decision today to shop second-hand.
Need new bed sheets? Check out your local thrift shop.
Running low on tea towels? Check out your local thrift shop.
Looking for a new cozy sweater for the winter ahead? Check out your local thrift shop.
Time to get a Halloween costume? Check out your local thrift shop.
The list of what you can find in a second-hand store goes on and on. Second-hand shops are full of great options that are stylish and in great condition.
If, for whatever reason, you are resistant to thrifting, we encourage you to look for ethically created fashion and textiles, and shop local as much as possible. This reduces the emissions from transport, and usually means better quality products that last longer.
As with all waste, one of the best things we can do is adopt the practice of asking ourselves “Do I really need this,” before making a purchase. Shop your own closet first, or arrange clothing swaps with friends! Learn some simple sewing so that you can mend your own clothing, or even re-purpose and redesign it to suit your style. One of the best decisions that each of us can make to reduce our environmental impact is to walk away from fast fashion. It may not feel easy to do so, but the future of our planet is so, so worth it.