Charity shops have always been at the heart of the high street. And, for as long as anyone can remember, people have passed on their clothes to siblings, friends, and even their parents. Meanwhile, many still throw their clothes and other textiles away, sending them to landfills where they will ultimately lay for more than 200 years.
Things are starting to change, though. With the use of the Circular Economy and a global effort, waste can be reduced. But for a long time now, there have been two other ways of managing textile waste – charity shops and hand-me-downs.
What is the Circular Economy?
Think: how do we get rain?
Precipitation is just one factor of the hydrological cycle. When it rains, plants get that much needed water (which is great), but there is also ‘left over’ water. This excess water enters the soil, rivers, and in some cases, travels over land and into a river. This then enters the ocean, where evaporation takes place. After evaporation, condensation occurs and clouds form. Then, wonderfully, it rains again. This cycle continues.
Think: human waste.
Over decades we have dumped items we have no use for anymore. Creating large landfills that are harmful to the environment. It’s only recently that people have started to realise that this cannot be good in the long run.
Items that lay waste in landfills often take hundreds of years to decompose. During this process, gases like carbon dioxide are released, ultimately heating up our planet.
Charity shops and Hand-me-downs
The UK has roughly 11,200 charity shops. People often donate dormant items from their lives, such as:
Old VHS tapes
And of course, clothes. Like hand-me-downs, charity shops ensure that items and clothing will get reused. In 2019, charity shops kept 339,000 tonnes of textile waste out of landfill. Impressive, right?
Besides reducing landfill, charity shops give clothes a new home. An item may be unwanted by one person but can be loved by another. Who doesn’t love finding cool items in charity shops? Items sold in these shops help to compete with fast fashion – where brands mass produce items and import from around the world.
Today, on average, people are buying 60% more clothing than in 2000. People are continuously feeling the need to keep up with trends and with apps like Instagram constantly promoting new items and spur of the moment sales in between seasons, we are encouraged to buy more. Sometimes compulsively.
Also, hand-me-downs are just fab. Even though poor Ron Weasley in Harry Potter gets picked on for wearing his older siblings’ clothes, sharing clothes isn’t actually that bad.
It’s exactly the same as charity shops – giving clothing a new owner, extending their life.
Three brands making a difference:
Patagonia is known for its outdoor clothing. The brand is even more known for their activism in environmental and social responsibility, as well as where they do business.
Currently, 68% of their line uses recycled materials, as well as 100% of the cotton grown for them is purely organic. They have even “kept 35 tonnes of plastic waste out of the world’s ocean’s this year by turning fishing nets into hat brims”. Now that’s pretty cool.
The brand even acts as a platform for selling pre-loved clothing on their extended site Worn Wear. It’s essentially the same as buying a second-hand car.
Water is one of the biggest components needed for making your everyday denim jeans. In fact, it is the most essential aspect, as it gives the denim that finishing touch. In doing so, the water produced is damaging the environment. So, Levi’s® Water<Less® was launched in 2011. Since then, Levi’s® have saved more than 3.5 billion litres of water and recycled over 5 billion more!
Levi’s® are well known for their durable denim. Some items, say a pair of jeans, can last a person their entire adulthood. This doesn’t mean there won’t be any tears along the way, which is why their tailor shop is a grand solution.
One of the world’s largest sporting brands, Nike, has also made the bold move towards a better future for the environment. When shopping with Nike, items labelled “sustainable materials” are made from at least 55% recycled content.
Besides this, the brand has even created their own circular design guide. Check it out here.
Three things YOU can do
Specialised recycled companies
If your clothes are beyond repair and you don’t think people will buy, then don’t worry! Plenty of places like Recycle Now take all clothes, no matter how damaged.
Not all clothes are re-used in the same way they were made to be used. Old tops, shirts – you name it, anything – can be used to make the fabric of a cushion or the padding of a car seat.
Do you think a sibling of yours would benefit from some of your old clothes? Or your dad would put an old hoodie of yours to good use? Or you would simply rather let your ‘bestie’ keep a top they borrowed? Then share your clothes!
There’s no harm in sharing your clothes with others.
When you get another charity bag come through your door, don’t use it as a bin liner, fill it with unworn clothes.
Not only does this mean you are clearing out some stuff you haven’t worn in a while, but you’re also giving your clothes a new home … and for a good cause!
Now that restrictions in lockdown are beginning to lift and people are planning their summer outfits, then where’s the harm in having a good old spring clean?