As a day-to-day consumer, our choices can truly change the world, for better or for worse. When you go shopping you may know your waist size, but do you know your waste size? Everyday decisions impact the size of our textile waste footprint. Every person has opportunities, through thoughtful consideration as a consumer, to easily shrink their waste size.
Developers and designers are innovating the techniques and technologies used for textiles. Specifically, efforts to improve the strength of clothing fibers are on the rise. Scientists are also using innovative approaches to better recycle used fabrics, which is increasingly necessary. Currently, only 0.1% of used clothing that is collected by nonprofits and recycling programs actually gets recycled.
Of course, technology is not created overnight, and there are a number of entrepreneurial movements that are still a few years away from execution. Until new tech can catch up to current demand, wearing your clothes longer is the easiest way to reduce your waste.
RECOVERY AND RECYCLING
Even when you can't wear them any longer, the trash should never be your clothes' final destination. Over time, your baggy trousers and stained shirts decompose and let off landfill gasses—a toxic brew of air pollutants that includes the greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, and methane.
And, as of May 2018, textile-related waste is outpacing every other stream of waste. While a new textiles economy is years away, there are existing remedies you can take now to reduce your waste size. Instead of throwing away your older or used garments, try recycling or reusing them.
When you do buy clothes online, consider the packaging and shipping methods used by the brand. In 2014, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Sustainable Materials Management fact sheet and found that containers and packaging produce the most waste. Try shopping local, or from the online sellers who account for waste by using minimal and sustainable packaging.
ZERO WASTE GOALS
Learning why and how there is waste in the textile lifecycle can motivate you to put your finished clothes to good use. So, ask yourself: do I know how much waste is associated with the creation and disposal of textiles? What are the effects of my waste? How can I reduce my waste size?
Luckily, even if you are considering these questions for the first time, many have already answered them. These solutions range in size from the granular “this is what one person can do” to a zero waste goal for the entire fashion industry. The city of San Francisco has already stepped up and announced a zero textile waste initiative throughout the city.
Regardless of how small you may feel your actions are, you are making a difference. Educating yourself and considering the waste you're creating are the first step.
When you go shopping you might know the size pant, top, and shoe you want, but all of those purchases also come with a waste size. Do you know yours?