Less than 20% of textile waste either stay on the market or get recycling Another quarter is incinerated which is CO2 intensive and the rest ends up in the landfill! That means 60% of our textiles end up in the landfill – and this is a conservative estimate.
To put this into perspective, this we’re talking about a garbage truck full of clothes every second.
Like most things we find when we investigate sustainability, the problem showed up before we had even thought about the future. Literally millions of tons of textile waste is created globally every year and there isn’t a clear solution yet.
There are a lot of people that have taken up the challenge though! Just Google “how to upcycle clothes.” You’ll find that there are thousands of homesteader articles giving you a lot of ways to upcycle your old clothing.
Ways to Upcycle Clothes
The ideas are all basically the same throughout the internet.
Upcycle clothes to make kitchen rags, reusable food wraps, makeup removal pads and scrunchies
You can absolutely turn your favorite old clothes into new beautiful accessories!
You might not know it yet, but you can also compost your 100% natural textiles. This is why it’s important to think about your fabrics if you’re buying new items.
Additionally, you can find take back programs cropping up around the world! Some cities have textile pickup now, and there are textile waste recycling programs like TerraCycle’s you can look into and see if it works for your lifestly.
There’s tech in its infancy that pulls apart clothes, and then respins it to twine that can be used to make new fabric.
Is Consignment a Good Option?
Yes and no.
If you’re working with fantastic consignment shops who make sure to sustainably upcycle clothes, you might be helping someone find a new favorite outfit.
However, often times, your well-meaning clothing donation ends up in bales and are exported to places like Chile, Brazil, Ghana, and Kenya.
When importers get their bales, they sell them directly to the merchants who sell at local markets for reduced prices. Merchants sort through their bales to see what they can sell and discard the rest – often 50% or more of a bale!
That leads to THOUSANDS OF TONS of clothing ending up in landfills in the import countries.
While some of the donated clothing is made from compostable materials, most is some form of polyester blend. So not only do they not break down, they leach chemicals into the environment. They also provide breeding grounds for bacteria that cause illness and infection.
These festering cesspools of clothes form literal mountains, miles long and taller than a two-story building.
This isn’t okay. So we do suggest upcycling and finding ways to reuse your old clothes.
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