European Week for
Waste Reduction
2022

Friday 25 Nov

The end-of-use phase of textiles

There are different reasons for clothes reaching the end-of-use phase in our closet: they don’t fit anymore, you don’t like the style anymore, or they are simply so worn out that they are falling apart. What’s important to consider before spring cleaning is their reusability; can someone else still wear them? Or are they gone beyond repair?

 

How to to dispose of reusable textiles

Clothing swap

A fun way to get rid of clothes you’re not wearing anymore is to swap them with friends and family. Clothing swap parties have become a trend throughout the last few years as both private and upscaled events. The idea is simple: everyone brings the clothes they are not wearing anymore - and then you swap!

Over the counter

Some secondhand shops accept over-the-counter donations. Just check in with your local secondhand shops if they do, too, and whether they have special requirements besides the basic donation rules. What are the basic donation rules you wonder? Let’s go through them!

 

Donation bins

There are some basic donation rules that everyone should consider before donating clothes and they are especially important when throwing something into a donation bin because usually there isn’t a professional who can assess your clothes beforehand and because lots of clothes are getting collected in the same spot. Therefore, the state of your clothes can decide over the faith of the whole container load.

 

  1. Make sure your clothes are dry and clean
    This rule applies at all times. If your clothes are dirty or wet you risk damaging the other textiles as well, the formation of mold and therefore the contamination of everything that is in the container in which case none of it can be reused anymore.
     

  2. Check the items you can donate beforehand
    Donation bins are operated by more than one collector in most countries, therefore the range of products they accept can vary. Some only accept clothing and household textiles, others accept shoes and bags; always make sure to check what’s written on the container before throwing things in. If you can’t find the information on the container, try the collector’s website. Most of them have the information available online.
     

  3. If it’s trash, it doesn’t belong in the donation bin
    Please don’t throw trash into donation bins! As with dirty and wet clothes, it can cause contamination of the whole container making everything non-reusable. If for some reason you are not sure whether something classifies as trash or not, consult the information on the container or the website of the collector on what they accept in their donation bins.
     

How to dispose of non-reusable textiles

Where to take non-reusable textiles depends on the country you live in and on the post-consumer textiles collector in your area. Some collectors also accept non-reusable textiles as long as they fit the right product category and are clean and dry. In other areas you have to bring your non-reusable textiles to specific waste centers. If you are not sure what’s the case where you live you can either try to google it or find the information on the website of your municipality.

 

As part of our collaboration with Humana and the Estonian municipalities Lääne-Harju and Saku we created a map that makes it easy to see where you can bring your reusable and non-reusable textiles. Have a look!

Thursday 24 Nov

Upcycling

 

Before diving into different upcycling examples, we first need to clarify the terminology. Three terms that need to be distinguished here are upcycling, recycling and downcycling.

 

Upcycling refers to the practice of turning one final product into a new one with a new purpose giving it the same or even higher value (therefore upcycling). The emphasis here lies on ‘new purpose’; it is not about repairing or refurbishing an item to give it back (some of) its original functionality.

 

Recycling involves the destruction of an item in order to turn it into a new item with the same purpose (most of the time). But here it gets tricky: when talking about textile recycling, the ideal scenario would be fiber-to-fiber recycling, turning an old T-shirt into fibers for a new T-shirt. In other cases, due to material properties, the T-shirt can’t be turned into a new T-shirt but instead gets downcycled into something else, for example insulation material (thereby decreasing the value of the original item). And yet in other cases products from one industry are recycled for another industry, such as PET bottles being turned into polyester fibers for textiles.

 

Of course, some gray zones still exist. When looking at post-industrial waste some companies use the term upcycling, even though the material has not yet been turned into a final product. The most significant difference between upcycling and recycling is that the latter involves the destruction of textiles before turning them into something new. When something is downcycled, the textiles are used in lower value products, usually from both a performance and a cost perspective. But enough theory, let’s see some examples.

 

Upcycling examples

Unbegun

 

Unbegun is an Amsterdam based company that upcycles market tarps, trailer tarps or post-industrial leftovers of festival tents into new products like laptop sleeves or bags.

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1/OFF
The Dutch brand 1/OFF is committed to upcycling by transforming vintage designer items into new pieces. That way, two old pair of jeans become one and a Burberry scarf turns into a skirt.

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Andra formen
For an example outside of textiles, Andra formen is a Swedish collective turning electric scooters being fished out of canals into new beautiful design objects such as vases, lamps or chairs.

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Wednesday 23 Nov

How to make your clothes last

 

While buying secondhand clothes helps reduce the consumption of new clothing, taking care of and repairing what’s already in your closet helps to reduce the overall consumption of textiles and thereby getting the most value out of what you own and limiting the amount of textile waste.

Studies in the past few years have shown that consumers keep their clothes only half as long as they did two decades ago, some of them even throwing them away after only a few wears (McKinsey, 2016; YouGov, 2017). With low prices and increasingly short-lived trends the fast fashion industry encourages consumers to see their clothing as disposable. The way to counteract this development is by repairing your favorite items and caring for them properly, so you can enjoy them for a longer time. To make it easier, we collected some resources for you.

 

Repair and Care

Eco-Age

Eco-Age curated a guide to the most common ways to mend your clothes. Here, they explain in easy steps different ways to mend a hole or reattach a button. Quick, easy and accessible.

 

Remake

Similar to Eco-Age’s guide, Remake published this article with easy ways to fix your broken clothes with the addition of fixing a hem and reattaching straps. If you prefer some visual prompts, you also get some pictures for all of the stitches.

 

Repair What You Wear

If you prefer video tutorials over reading then this is for you. Repair What You Wear is a Youtube channel that teaches you step by step how to fix hems, mend holes in different types of clothing and - if you’re extra curious - teaches you some background knowledge on different materials and other fun skills, like embroidery.

 

Clothing Repair by the University of Kentucky

Quick guides are not for you, you want the extended version? Even though this handbook is from 2007, it is nonetheless useful if you want to understand the different types and ways to repair your clothes. However, in some cases some basic sewing experience is already required.


Fixing Fashion

Fixing Fashion set up an online academy where you can learn how to repair and upgrade your clothes, but also understand what all those symbols on the care label mean, how to deal with difficult stains and to wash different materials. Whether you prefer overview tables or video tutorials, here you will find anything you need.

Tuesday 22 Nov

What you can do before buying new

 

As it has become clear in yesterday’s post, in order to reduce the textile industry’s negative impact on the environment we need to reduce our consumption of textiles. A first step in that direction is to reduce the consumption of new textiles.

The secondhand market is growing

According to thredUP’s Resale Report 2022 the secondhand apparel market is expected to grow 127% by 2026, faster than the global apparel market overall. With North America leading that market growth, the U.S. secondhand market is expected to double in value by 2026. This projected growth is especially thanks to the appearance and expansion of online marketplaces and an increase of brands embracing resale as part of their business strategy (even if still considerably small compared to their traditional business model). Based on surveying 3.500 U.S. adults - predominantly women - 70% find it easier to shop secondhand with the emergence of technology and online platforms compared to 5 years ago.

Shift in consumer behavior

Especially Gen Z and Millenials steer the demand for secondhand, 45% of them stating they would be more likely to buy from a brand that offers secondhand alongside new clothing. Almost half of them spend a larger portion of their budget on secondhand clothing compared to 5 years ago (thredUP, 2022).

Where to buy second hand in Estonia

As part of our collaboration with Humana Estonia and the municipalities Lääne-Harju and Saku we created an overview of secondhand location to make it easier to buy secondhand clothing. Have a look at our map to find the closest secondhand store near you!

Fashion Rail

Monday 21 Nov

Waste is out of fashion: the textile industry’s problem in a nutshell

 

By now, it isn’t a secret anymore that the fashion and textile industry has a staggeringly high environmental cost, considering that production of clothing has doubled between the years 2000 and 2015 (Ellen McArthur Foundation, 2017). These high productions contribute to the increased use of precious resources, such as water and land, increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and mountains of textile waste that often get incinerated or end up in landfills.

Use of resources

 

Water

According to Hoekstra et al. (2012) water use can be distinguished into ‘blue’ water and ‘green’ water. Blue water refers to “surface water or groundwater consumed or evaporated during irrigation, industry processes or household use” and green water refers to “rain water stored in the soil, typically used to grow crops” (EEA, 2022). The European Environmental Agency reports that in the production of all clothing, footwear and household textiles purchased by EU households in 2020, about 4,000 million m³ of blue water were required, amounting to 9m³ per person, and about 20,000 million m³ of green water was used, mainly for producing cotton, which amounts to 44m³ per person. With those numbers, textiles come in third after food and recreation and culture in the race for the highest water consumption (EEA, 2022).

Land

For the production of the textiles purchased by European households in 2020, approximately 180,000km² of land have been used in 2020. This land is both used for growing crops as well as livestock farming in order to produce animal-based fibers. Interestingly, only 8% of the estimated 180,000km² land lie within Europe (EEA, 2022).

 

GHG emissions

Being one of the most polluting industries, the global fashion industry was responsible for an estimated 2.1 billion tonnes of GHG emissions in 2018, equalling 4% of the global GHG emissions. Even though 4% might not sound like a lot, it is equivalent to the annual GHG emissions of Germany, France and the United Kingdom combined (GFA, McKinsey, 2020).

 

Post-consumer waste

Today, 6 million tonnes of new clothing and household textiles are purchased by Europeans every year but only about 33% of those textiles are collected when no longer wanted or usable; the rest goes directly to landfill or incineration (McKinsey, 2022). A large fraction of those collected textiles end up being exported unsorted to countries outside Europe, where in the best case they end up on second-hand markets, but in the worst case in places like Chile’s Atacama desert that has been in the news around this time last year for becoming a “dumping ground for fast fashion leftovers” (Aljazeera, 2021).