Earth Day once more highlights the importance of buying clothes responsibly. As per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Stats in 1977, clothing accounted for 6.2 per cent of US household spending; now, each households spends half as much (3.1 per cent). Earlier, retailers used to take time to introduce clothes to their floors and put them on sale at the end of the season. These days, as a McKinsey report suggests, stores like Zara offer 24 new collections per year; H&M offers 12-to-16 and refreshes them weekly. And it’s not just fast fashion retailers who are churning out new collections quickly. Fear of missing out has led mainstream retailers to take up fast fashion model of offering more styles, quickly at lower prices.
Overall, textile waste accounts for almost 5 per cent of landfill space in the US. The textile recycling industry salvages about 3.8 billion pounds of post-consumer textile waste (PCTW) each year, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. However, as the Council for Textile Recycling (CTR) reports, the EPA has found this accounts for just 15 per cent of all PCTW, leaving 85 per cent in landfills. In the US, 72 per cent consumers are concerned about the environment and feel motivated to take sustainable action, reveals a Cotton Incorporated 2017 Global Environment Survey. Additionally, 75 per cent consumers feel environmental change is real and requires adjustments in our behavior. The majority of Americans (65 per cent) say they recycle clothing or textiles, according to the Environment Survey.
Ed Stubin, Co-owner and Chairman, the Trans- Americas Trading Co, avers his firm processes more than 100 million pounds of used textiles annually. The Clifton, NJ-based company collects tons of used apparel from charities, municipalities, and fundraising groups. The garments are separated; some are sold to producers who use the fibre for rags, padding, and insulation. Garments made of cashmere or wool is separated, so they can be rewoven and re-knitted into new garments. And the rest of the apparel is resold as used clothing, usually overseas. Three years ago, Trans-Americas started the 2ReWear program to increase recycling and keep more textiles from the landfills. Stubin says, shoppers want to buy new clothes, but their closets are full. By bringing their used clothes to a bin at the store, they don’t have to go out of their way to donate their old clothes. And they are making room for new clothes by bringing their used items to their favorite store. Retailers could use the programme as a promotional activity to bring shoppers in.
Designer Daniel Silverstein’s label, Zero Waste Daniel, uses discarded factory scraps and turns them into new garments. These range from T-shirts and hoodies to tanks, sweatpants and shorts. He also makes one-of-a-kind items using panels of fabric to create mosaic-style sweatshirts or pieced sweaters. The Brooklyn-based company’s mission is to make unique yet affordable fashion pieces by applying the art of sewing to the scraps that abound due to the fashion industry’s wasteful practices. Since its inception in 2017, the company estimates that it’s already saved tons of scrap material from Greater New York-area landfills. Some companies like Patagonia are collecting materials like plastic soda bottles to melt them down, extrude the polyester and spin them into new fabric.
In the US, recycling and sustainability has captured the interest of nearly 6 in 10 consumers (59 per cent) simply because it’s the right thing to do, according to the Environment Survey. That’s followed by a wish to protect the world for my children/grandchildren/future generations (50 per cent) and to live a more balanced/healthier lifestyle (41 per cent).