When Fashion is Finished – Garment End of Life.
Fast fashion = fast disposal.With high street stores and supermarkets now producing clothing, prices have plumetted over the last 10 years. The fall in price has driven consumption upwards by 40% in the same time.Cheap production means that garments we buy have a shorter lifespan and in many cases are made with a low fibre count and in turn are of less quality. 225,000 tones of textile waste are disposed of in Ireland each year. Recycling these textiles would reduce direct greenhouse gas emissions by over 300,000 tones per annum (equivalent to reducing annual car use by almost 50,000 cars).
Traditionally up to 90% of textiles were recycled to be used as industry rags, or recycled into insulation and other building products but because modern garments are often made of multiple fibres and heavily embellished textile recycling is extremely complicated. Textile recycling can be carried out mechanically (ripping and tearing the fabric apart) or by chemical means. The market for recycled natural textiles is underdeveloped in Ireland. Synthetic fabrics are recycled by breaking them down to polymer level and remaking them.
Textiles collected from bring bank facilities all over Ireland are generally sorted in Dublin.The majority of these textiles are sent out of Ireland for reuse (re-wear). Textiles that are not suitable for re-wear are recycled using various processes (shredding) and used for flocking for mattresses, animal bedding etc. In 2005, 10,000 tonnes of clothing, shoes and household textiles were reused in Ireland via charity collections.
In Ireland it is estimated that only 4% of textiles are recycled. Where are yours going?
Incineration: the products of incineration of uncontaminated waste are carbon dioxide and water vapour. The water vapour produced can be used to power the incineration process. Incineration of waste is not available in Ireland at the moment, most contaminated textile waste is shipped to other European countries to be incinerated there.Incineration of contaminated waste produces dioxins as a by product, which are considered to be a serious health hazard.
Upcycling: Gill Baugh, the author of ‘The Fashion Designer Textile Industry – the creative use of fabrics in design’ coins the term as ‘the reappropriation of fabric that has already had one life for one purpose, and reworking, reassigning or reinventing it to give it a new life serving a different purpose/aesthetic’.
The changing attitude of the consumer: Perhaps its ‘these recessionary times’ or perhaps we have become more environmentally conscious… either way the attitude of the Irish consumer has moved away from fast fashion to more sustainable options. Leasing, hiring, renting and lending clothing have all gained popularity in recent years. As have events like ‘clothes swaps’.