Cover photo by Recycling Textile Management via rtmrecycling.com
By Aaron Curran, CEO & Founder Bag2School North America
Did you know that the second greatest polluting industry in the world – after only oil – is textiles? Consumption of textiles has increased by over 400% over the last two decades resulting in over 14 Million tons of textile waste now being produced annually in North America.
This graph produced by USA Environmental Protection Agency illustrates – very simply – the problem:
(i) the Red line is the amount of textile waste generated annually in North America. From 1960-1980 the increase was modest. From 1980 to today, the amount of textile waste has increased exponentially to over 14 Milliton Tons/year. The 1980’s is important as this was the advent of ‘fast fashion’ and cheap throw away clothing, which has directly created the exponential increase in waste.
(ii) the Green line is the amount of textile waste recovered (or diverted, recycled or reused in some way). From 1960-1980 there were virtually no programs in place. Since 1980, the amount recovered has increased modestly to around 2 Million Tons/year today.
The difference between the Red and Green lines is the amount of textile waste dumped in landfills – around 12 Million Tons/year. In North America, almost 85% of textile waste is disposed of in landfill, yet it is almost 100% recyclable and the problem is growing exponentially year over year.
Let’s look at some facts:
• It takes 2720 litres of water to make ONE t-shirt. This is the amount of water ONE adult will drink over a 3-year period;
• It takes 200 gallons of water to make one pair jeans which is equivalent to 285 adult showers
• The average Canadian adult hoards CAD$350 of clothing in their closet. This adds up to 18 outfits per person or CAD$50 billion dollars of unworn clothing sitting in closets across Canada each year.
So what can we do to improve this textile crisis? While textile recycling/diversion programs do help to mitigate the problem, they are NOT the answer. The only truly long term, sustainable solution is to consume less and be a part of the “Slow Fashion Movement”.
The slow fashion movement comprises 3 primary areas:
• Ethical Fashion – human and animal rights – fair living wages and working conditions globally and providing equal opportunities for all workers.
• Eco Fashion – the impact of clothing production on the environment – using local materials and resources to create products and manufacturing techniques that are eco-friendly, including clothing production with sustainable fabric materials, reclaimed fabric, secondhand pieces, and vintage.
• Lasting (Sustainable) Fashion – is about slowing down the clothing consumption rate. Garments that last are made of high-quality materials, are built for longevity, and do not aspire to be immediately trendy – think Patagonia (clothing that is made to last forever).
How Bag2School is fighting the textile crisis:
Bag2School is a textile diversion program and free fundraising tool for your schools. Students, staff and parents work together to contribute previously enjoyed clothing and textiles that are then weighed and exchanged for cash at the current market rate. The items will be shipped overseas and sold as quality used clothing, boosting affordable clothing markets in developing countries. It’s a great way for schools to raise money for what’s important. Plus, it feels good to be green. The program teaches students about the importance of recycling and re-using, thereby fostering environmental awareness at a young age. On top of this, it makes a real impact by reducing the amount of textile waste in our landfills.
Read more about Bag2School here