The vast majority of our worn clothing and last season’s styles ends up in the landfill.
In the United States alone, approximately 12.8 million tons of textiles are discarded and headed for the dump every year (1). In Great Britain, an estimated 350,000 tonnes a year (385,808 tons US), or about £140 million worth of used clothing, is thrown in the trash (2).
The good news? Change is in the air.
Progressive clothing brands and manufacturers are seeing these used clothes for what they are; an untapped source of fiber that need never go to waste.
CanopyStyle partners such as H&M, Marks and Spencer, Levi Strauss and Co. and Patagonia are all on the leading edge for innovations in textile upcycling. All have in-store recycling programs and are committed to diverting clothing from the landfill back into the fabric supply chain.
H&M’s new denim line is made with at least 20 percent recycled fabric and they have an ambitious agenda to dramatically increase the number of styles containing recycled fibres. Marks and Spencer is working with Worn Again as it refines its technology so that used fabrics can be broken down, washed, processed and turned into yarn, textiles and new clothes – again and again. And G-Star RAW, in collaboration with Pharrell Williams, is producing denim made with plastic waste recovered from the worlds’ oceans.
As brands work to increase their use of recovered fabrics, entrepreneurs and start-ups are now investing in developing new technologies to turn old garments into the next generation of textiles and fabrics.
Seattle-based Evrnu is creating fresh new engineered fibre from 100% post-consumer cotton garment waste suitable for a wide array of products. Swedish innovator Re:newcell has launched a recycling process that turns cotton and cellulosic textiles back into a product similar to conventional dissolving pulp, that can then be blended to produce viscose and rayon fabrics.
Yet used clothing is not the only solution to protecting ancient and endangered forests from being cut down, turned into rayon and woven into fabrics.
1. Advancing Sustainable Materials Management. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency http://www.epa.gov/wastes/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/2013_advncng_smm_fs.pdf
2. WRAP UK: Valuing Our Clothes. http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/VoC%20FINAL%20online%202012%2007%2011.pdf