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Clothing and recycling: our choices make the difference
As already mentioned in our Magazine, clothing is one of the most polluting sectors in the world, second only to the oil industry. To give an idea, the pollution produced by this department represents 10% of global carbon emissions. All this is accentuated by what can be defined as fast fashion. A modern term used by fashion retailers to express a design that passes quickly from the runways and influences current fashion trends. Fast fashion is also associated with disposable fashion because it brings mass-market design products at relatively low prices, produced without respecting the principles of ethics and environmental sustainability. This is why in CasaGIN we believe every step of the production chain is fundamental: from the choice of innovative and natural materials to the selection of suppliers that follow ethical production processes.
The overall impacts of the fast fashion industry are quite alarming. This relatively new but popular trend sees modern clothing companies introduce new lines of clothing at a much higher frequency than the traditional rhythm, without paying attention to the choice of materials or the conditions of workers involved in the production of fabrics and garments. All this attracts consumers because clothes are much cheaper (because of where and how they are produced). Because the cost of clothing is so cheap, people change clothes more often and are more likely to discard what they don’t wear, since they can afford to do so.
It is estimated that every Italian, on average, baskets 10 kg of clothes every year, with only 15% of this large amount of reused or recycled textile waste. Furthermore, it must be considered that in case of recycling, the fabric it is not transformed into a new shirt or a pair of pants. Currently what happens is that the clothes are simply reused as they are or used for other accessory uses, such as rags or other. The commitment in this direction is not lacking and there are numerous attempts to put back on the market the fabrics used for clothes.
A research group in Finland has recently developed a recovery technique that recycles cotton and polyester garments, turning them into fibers similar to TENCEL Modal and Lyocell, eco-sustainable materials we are using at CasaGIN to produce our garments. This technique will allow clothes to be recycled several times and prevent huge quantities of fabrics from ending up in the landfill every year. Herbert Sixta, on the other hand, from the University of Aalto in Finland, started a search for new tissue recycling techniques and about five years ago, the Sixta team discovered an ionic liquid (liquid salt) that can dissolve the cellulose from the pulp of wood, producing a material that can be transformed into textile fibers of high resistance, continuously recyclable. Although none of these methods is yet ready for commercial use, these developments highlight the importance and urgency of finding solutions to make the fashion industry more environmentally friendly. In the meantime we like to remember that there are always small gestures that can make a difference:
Reduce: try to reduce the amount of clothing purchased. If you really need new clothes, let’s look for quality. They will last longer and keep us from constantly replacing the wardrobe.
Reuse: shopping in second-hand clothing stores is always a great way to prevent fabrics from ending up in landfills.
Recycle: when it’s time to get rid of unwanted or unused clothes, let’s donate them! Many organizations offer solutions for garment recycling.
Finally, more and more global producers are ready to tackle the problem of waste in the form of clothing. And for this reason there are numerous campaigns for collecting used clothes. H&M, Zara, & Other Stories, North Face, Intimissimi and Oviesse allow, through targeted programs, to deliver bags of used clothes of any brand and type in their dedicated stores in exchange for a shopping voucher. In several cases the clothes that can still be worn are sold as second-hand items; recoverable fabrics are instead recycled or transformed into textile fibers and reused in different industries and sectors. There are also solidarity shops in many Italian cities, where you can donate your clothes and make them “buy”, without the use of money, from those who are more unlucky.
In short, there are many solutions to recover or dispose old clothes, shoes, bags and other textile materials, contributing significantly to environmental protection. A dress, if wisely adapted, can have a thousand lives. This is why the focus on collecting used clothes is increasingly successful and constantly growing. Started in the United States, the recycling of clothes and fabrics is slowly spreading also in Italy. But it is necessary not to focus on a single solution and pay more attention to our buying habits. By choosing natural and eco-sustainable products, created ethically, everyone can make a big difference! Our choices have made in the past, and will make the difference in the future.