Fast fashion = fast disposal. Prices for clothing have plummet over the last 10 years driving consumption upwards by 40%. Cheap production means that the 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.

In the spirit of REDUCE RE-USE RECYCLE the most important step is to reduce the amount of textiles being disposed of. This means buying durable clothing, wearing garments until the end of their life and mending them when possible to prolong their life.

Re-using clothing that is in good condition is preferential to recycling them. Leasing, hiring, renting and lending clothing have all gained popularity in recent years. As have events like ‘clothes swaps’. Upcycling has become a popular way of reducing waste and creating something new and unique. See our section on upcycling for ideas and tutorials.

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. Textiles that are not suitable for wear are recycled.

Traditionally up to 90% of textiles were recycled to be used as industry rags, or recycled into insulation and other building products. Modern garments are often made of multiple fibres and heavily embellished which makes recycling extremely complicated. It is estimated that only 4% of textiles are currently recycled. Textile recycling can be carried out mechanically (ripping and tearing the fabric apart) or by chemical means and is used for flocking for mattresses, animal bedding etc.

In Ireland, most textiles end up in landfill. 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). There, textiles present particular problems. Some fabrics, such as synthetics do not decompose. Some, such as wool do, but produce methane, which contributes to climate change. Other waste is shipped to European countries to be incinerated, a process that produces dioxins as a by product, which are considered to be a serious health hazard.