Here’s an eco-friendly take on the fast fashion approach to dressing up: take those old clothes and don’t throw them in the trash, try to make them new again.
That’s what two groups — the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario, and The Guelph Tool Library — have in mind when they encourage people to reuse clothes that would otherwise end up in landfills.
And this approach, it seems, can do a lot to reduce the amount of clothing materials that end up in landfills, which amounts to hundreds of millions of kilograms a year, according to a new study.
For its part, the Fashion History Museum challenges people to reuse clothes to create daring new outfits.
Anyone who sews can take part in the museum’s upcycling challenge, and the finished garments and accessories will be showcased at an event this spring.
“Upcycling is something I think we’re going to see more of in fashion,” Jonathan Walford, director and curator of the Fashion History Museum, told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo’s The morning edition.
“I think this is the wave of the future.”
“Unloved fabrics” become beloved pieces
Upcycling means taking old clothes and turning them into something new. It’s a way to reuse textiles that would otherwise have ended up in the trash.
Repurposing fabrics from old clothes isn’t new, Walford said. In the 18th century, fabric was the most expensive part of an outfit. Women would keep the clothes in a suitcase so their daughters and granddaughters could take them apart and reuse the material, he explained.
“There are ways to take old and unloved fabrics and materials, repurpose them for today, and make them relevant to today’s audiences,” Walford said.
The clothing industry has been criticized for its environmental impact. Of particular concern is fast fashion – mass-market clothing that is manufactured cheaply and quickly in response to the latest trends. These mass-marketed garments are not designed to last and therefore end up in landfills faster than higher-quality, higher-cost garments.
According to a study by researchers from the University of Waterloo and Seneca College in Toronto, Canadians throw away 500 million kilograms of fabric that could be reused and recycled.
The study analyzes how much fabric ends up in Canadian landfills and outlines a new sorting system designed to help separate textile waste from trash.
Olaf Weber, co-author of the study, a professor in the University of Waterloo’s School of Environment, Enterprise and Development, said that 85 percent of discarded clothes “shouldn’t be there”.
“Only 15 percent that we found is really waste — can’t be recycled, can’t be reused, can’t be resold,” Weber said.
Researchers evaluated a sample of approximately 10,000 items collected from communities across Ontario between 2019 and 2020. Weber said it was surprising to see how much textile waste was like new.
Canada doesn’t have a standardized system for sorting textiles, but researchers developed a new way of rating an item’s quality on an A to F scale to determine whether it can be resold, recycled or thrown away. For example, a pair of ripped and stained jeans could be marked for repair instead of going in the trash.
Weber said the goal of the study is to determine the quality and quantity of textile waste, and that the next step is to encourage consumers to divert textiles from landfills.
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Manufacturing apparel fabrics uses a lot of energy and water, Weber said. And when clothes end up in landfills, they produce greenhouse gas emissions, he said.
Education and marketing about social responsibility, new regulations and even community clothing swaps can make a difference and redirect some articles, Weber added.
Mending clothing to make it last is popular, as are opportunities to learn.
This is where the Guelph Tool Library comes into play. It houses repair cafes where people can drop off clothes and broken equipment and tools for repairs. The nonprofit organization is also developing creative new ways to make household items durable.
His latest initiative is the Circular Store, a thrift store and mini-recycling center due to open later this month.
The Guelph Tool Library works with Terracycle to collect common household items that cannot be recycled through city recycling services, such as: B. Razor blades and toothbrushes.
If donated clothes don’t sell at the thrift store, they’re given to community organizations that can use them, said Megan Clarke, coordinator of the Circular Store.
“If they don’t want it, then we look at it and see if we can take the clothes apart and source them for materials that can be used for something else,” she added.
“Our goals are purely sustainable. We will do everything we can to prevent your items from ending up in landfills.”
Textiles are difficult to recycle, Clarke said, which is why she believes buying second-hand clothes is a sustainable and economical way to think about your wardrobe.
“People need to shift their consumption to a more circular way of shopping,” Clarke said.
The Guelph Tool Library also accepts donations of items for sale in the Circular Store.
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