• Darcie-Mae Smith

Waste Not, Want Not. Throw-away Culture and Its Impact.

The fourth biggest textile waste producer in Europe is… you guessed it, the UK. In a society that is becoming increasingly self-aware and conscious of climate change, why hasn’t this information been blasted all over social media? Let me drop some numbers, some food for your thoughts.


Every year 1.7kg of textile is discarded, per person and only 0.3kg of this textile is recycled. That means 1.4kg is taken to landfill and is left to decompose, which can take hundreds of years. I don’t know about you, but I would rather plant trees and save bees than have huge landfill spaces.

Are we aware?


Our new inexpensive clothes fall into our palms within 3-5 days working days thanks to the globalisation of the fashion industry. The somewhat instant gratification has changed our relationships with our clothes; they are disposable commodities. Our planet is not.


When discussing throw-away culture we must note fast-fashion is the original offender. One cannot be without the other. In other words, the modern, “improved” and notably cheap fashion pieces are a problem. As a result of the inexpensive purchase, it is so effortless and so simple just to bin rather than fix.


It takes only a few minutes to sew a strap back onto that dress, re-hem that top and find a new button for those jeans! Don’t throw it away. Then again, who are we to deny ourselves of the brand new, delicious clothes that just popped up on Instagram, right? #welovefastfashion…not.


We all know trends come and go so how about we start trending #waystomakeourclotheslastlonger? or invest in long lasting staples #sustainability. It is the change our planet needs from us. We ought to stop over consuming and feeling an excessive need to fulfil our empty desires with clothes.


How about we decrease our harmful and somewhat irreversible impact on the environment. Isn’t it interesting that 75% of UK residents are concerned about climate change but who really talks-the-talk and walks-the-walk when it comes to fashion?


Fibres and Footprint


In 2019, it was recorded that 60% of our clothes contain polyester. The extraction of the man-made polymer makes the largest contribution to the carbon footprint of clothing. Publications Parliament UK states the production of one polyester shirt has a 5.5kg carbon footprint.


Now, that is a lot of greenhouse gases entering our atmosphere for a single shirt and this is just production. Our fickle ways with clothing mean that within weeks of having this product it’ll be in the bin and on its way to the dump. Where it can take between 20 and 200 years to decompose!


My question is reader, are we so out of touch with our wardrobe that we forgot clothes were not designed to be thrown away so callously? I think we inadvertently take for granted the time, effort and energy used to produce such beautiful garments. I suggest we should hold ourselves accountable for our behaviour. Throw away the throw-away culture ladies and gents.


So how do we have trendy, fashionable clothes without causing great environmental impact? Let me suggest a few ideas.


Industry and You


Personally, I love doing a little research behind where all products I buy come from. I even check out if they have a sustainability link on their website. We are talking about sustainability here and throwing away carelessly isn’t sustainable.


Clothing companies such as Levi’s and H&M are responding to the out-cry for change. It’s great that some companies are trying to curb the fast-fashion frenzy. No clothing is worth damaging our planet, right?


Levi’s has made big waves in regard to reducing the throwing away of their products. Firstly, the care instructions are easy to follow, which can make clothes last longer. In turn this lessens your need to buy more frequently. Also, their website provides ways you can use recycle your jeans. More information here.


H&M are also trying to pull away from the fast-fashion foundation it was built on and created an aptly named Conscious Collection. This collection uses recycled polyester which cuts down that carbon footprint we mentioned earlier. Have you taken the time to research the companies you buy from? If no, I implore you to research! More information here.


If research isn’t for you, I’m sure you’re wondering what else can you do.


Have you heard of hand-me-downs? I grew up on these and I still have a jumper which was originally knitted for my mum by her mum in my wardrobe. So, if you have younger siblings, cousins or even friends give a second thought before stuffing your unwanted clothes, that you bought last week, into a binbag.


I encourage you to stop, think and be mindful of your throwing away habits.


For more information about fashion and throw away culture, click here.


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