Plastic

Landfill

3 Things You Should Know About Recycled Garments

Aniek

Hi! My name is Aniek Baltussen. I am a sustainable business graduate who loves fashion and sees sustainable fashion as the future. “Green is the new black”. 

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Each year in Europe over 6 million tonnes of clothing is consumed. Also, each year in Europe about 16 million tonnes of textile waste is generated (including towels, carpets, bed sheets, … well, you get the picture).

Unfortunately, clothes are treated as single waste items, which obviously causes huge sustainability issues. On one hand we throw our garments easily ‘away’ while on the other hand we purchase new garments made from new resources. Shouldn’t we be able to close the loop and start imitating nature with its beautiful designed ecosystems and reuse this garment waste?

Did you know that currently only about 15% of the wasted textile material is recycled and most part of this is being downcycled? This means that the recycled textile is of lower quality and functionality than the original material. Often, it’s used as car stuffing or cleaning cloths. Rarely is it upcycled into new high quality, functional garments again.

But how come we see more and more fashion brands offering items from recycled textiles? What’s this about? Is it another type of greenwashing or can we really trust that these materials are more sustainable than materials that come from ‘virgin’ resources? When a brand sells for example ‘contains recycled cotton’ garments or ‘made from recycled polyester’ you should keep these things in mind:

T-shirt

1. 100% recycled garments are rare (for now)

Considering current recycling technologies, it is the case that 100% recycled textiles is much more expensive and/or of lower quality than virgin materials. Recycled content is therefore often mixed with virgin fibers to enhance the quality or financial costs of the item. Is that a bad thing? No, not necessarily. First, it shows current developments with the use of recycled textiles. The positive impact of 100 companies producing their fabrics with 10% recycled material is far more than one brand selling 100% recycled content-garments. Let’s call it economies of scale. Second, there are a lot of current technologies working to a higher and higher percentage of recycled textiles. For example, MUD Jeans is working on creating the first 100% recycled jeans in 2020 and UPSET is working on the production of 100% recycled cotton yarn. Keep an eye on these developments!

Fashion store

2. Recycled content from non-textile resources

Clothes made from recycled textile can also be made from a fabric with recycled content that was originally another item. For example, creating swimwear from recycled PET bottles. If these PET bottles were wasted and would otherwise be thrown away and go into landfill, or incinerated, it’s better to create clothes from it. RIGHT?! Great example of upcycling.

Another example is creating nylon from abandoned fishing nets, which contributes to cleaner oceans (hurray!). Creating clothes from other waste material as a resource, does not necessarily contribute to a lower textile waste pile, although it does diminish the use of raw material for clothing production.

We should keep in mind that upcycling processes shouldn’t be hazardous to the environment or people. So, keep asking your favorite brand how this product came to be.

Ocean

3. No official definition of recycled textile yet

At the moment there is no definition or agreement to what textile recycling means. Even an item that contains the lowest percentage of recycled material can be labelled with this information. The NEN (Dutch organisation that creates technical definitions) is currently working on a definition for recycled textiles. For example, they consider whether a recycled product can also contain virgin material or whether it should be made from textile-to-textile recycling only. This will create much more understanding in the future.

So, when purchasing clothes from recycled textile, know that there are good developments going. But also keep on asking brands what they exactly mean with their labels, with above named top three in mind. Being informed is key to making a considerate buying decision, as we vote with our money the kind of world we’d like to see.

Do you want to know more about recycled textiles or do you have questions for Aniek or Rachel? Feel free to do that in the comments below. Do you see mistakes? Let us know! Do you want to stay informed? Sign up for our Newsletter or social via Facebook and Instagram.


Maggie Marilyn no plastic

Fashion Brand Maggie Marilyn Beats Plastic Polybags. Read here how.

Rachel founder Rethink Rebels

Hi!
I’m Rachel
You have gifts to change
the fashion industry
and my job is to help you
using them.

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How do you know if ‘green’ disposable plastic products, marked bioplastic, biodegradable, or compostable are actually a good choice for planet & people? All the different terms are confusing. We need clarity. And we need it fast.

We all know that plastic is made of artificially created chemicals that don’t belong in our world. Plus they don’t mix well with nature. These plastics are a big source of pollution, in our water and food, creating toxic health hazards for communities as well as killing marine wildlife.

Plastic packaging biodegradable

The Solution To Plastic Polybags

Maggie Marilyn, a sustainable fashion brand from New Zealand uses biodegradable cassava polybags. They are made from the cassava root, vegetable oil, and vegetable polymers and are produced in Indonesia. These bags, created for them by ComPlast, decompose back to nature and dissolve in water. Maggie Marilyn explains “Some manufacturers of petroleum-based bags will add plant-based materials to the plastic and also claim these as “biodegradable”. A very frustrating piece of greenwashing!”

Currently, these bio-based polybags are commercially compostable (99.5% plant material) and they are developing towards home-composting. These bags completely biodegrade back into the environment without creating any type of microplastics (as the petroleum-based plastic do). Maggie Marilyn shares more detailed information on their website and by doing so, they hope to encourage other brands and retailers to demand more on this specific issue that is holding us back from being more accountable to our waste. Sharing = Caring!

Currently, these bio-based polybags are commercially compostable and hopefully soon for home-composting.

Maggie Marilyn ComPlast biodegradable bag from 100% natural products

Recycling bio-based plastics

The volume of bio-based plastics is still too small for separation or separate collection. But hey, isn’t this just like electric cars? At first, nobody bought one because there was no charging point. But then, nobody is going to install charging stations if there are no electric cars… Just the same case with the recycling of bio-based plastics. It’s ultimately up to waste companies to break through that problem. Overall, it is expected that by 2020 the share of bio-based and biodegradable plastics will increase to 2.5% of fossil plastics production (read here more about this). That’s only a half a year away from now…

Facilitate Consumers’ best behavior

Collection and sorting, which starts at consumers and their behavior, largely determine the (energy) efficiency of waste management systems. To facilitate consumers to choose the right route of disposal for packaging waste, pictograms can be used to indicate the preferred disposal route.

New Plastic Economy Ellen MacArthur

Six key points so that plastic never becomes waste

The New Plastics Economy (Ellen MacArthur Foundation) has defined six key points to catalyze change and shift towards a circular economy where plastic never becomes waste:

  1. Elimination of problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging through redesign, innovation, and new delivery models is a priority

  2. Reuse models are applied where relevant, reducing the need for single-use packaging

  3. All plastic packaging is 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable

  4. All plastic packaging is reused, recycled (rPET), or composted in practice

  5. The use of plastic is fully decoupled from the consumption of finite resources

  6. All plastic packaging is free of hazardous chemicals, and the health, safety, and rights of all people involved are respected.

Questions about polybags & plastics? Write them down in our comments below. Do you like this? Perhaps you like our previous article on plastics in a circular economy.  Do you see mistakes? Let us know! Do you want to stay informed? Sign up for our Newsletter or social via Facebook and Instagram.