Before we even begin to think about discarding old clothes, we need to alert ourselves that our single-minded objective should be to avoid adding to this humungous landfill. While clothes made from natural fibres like cotton, silk and jute can be turned into compost, there are tons that are made of blended fabrics and are therefore not biodegradable. So here is the starting point – how first to segregate, reuse, recycle, upcycle and reduce- reduce the traffic towards the landfill by all means.
In the US alone, data gleaned from textile waste management has shown that 100 pounds of old clothing are thrown every year. Of this there are almost 17 million tons of textile waste, 11.2 million tons made it to landfills and the majority of waste is old clothing. Worse, 95% of used textiles can be recycled, but 85% end up in landfills anyway. We need to be mindful of this. This happens across nations in varying percentages perhaps.
So, what are the first steps towards sustainable spring cleaning shall we say? Easiest way deal with old clothes is to give away what is not fitting any longer or considered out of fashion, but in decent condition. You can start by giving away to family and friends.
Donating is a good thought **
There must be a pile of clothes that are intact but undergone their fair share of wear and tear and can be kept aside for donating.
We can look at the people around us, who serve us, like our domestic help, others carrying out chores, local charities and NGOs, and pass on the bulk for reuse for those who actually need the clothing. It is helpful to keep a list ready, of centres, organisations and NGOs that accept old clothes, that fall within your pin code. However, we all have our favourite charities and organisations/associations that one would have to drive to. So be it.
2, 2.1 Donation Boxes for old clothes
Organisations like Salvation Army, Oxfam, Bharat Seva Ashram, Ramakrishna Mission and umpteen number of NGOs accept clothes for donation. Organisations are also careful and accept clothes that usable, so best to ensure they are not torn or threadbare. This is the first and the easiest step to take to stop the hand-me-downs from reaching the landfill.
Recycle is a concept that is picking up in India thanks to individuals, start ups and NGOs who have made it their mission towards greening the planet.
3.A Goonj collection box
Textile recycling is not as widely known, Goonj in India is one such organisation that has a massive collection and drive towards this activity. Their very visible donation boxes placed at large retail outlets and shopping complexes and other centres, encourage the public to donate clothes generously. Overseas organisations such as Blue Jeans Go Green recycles old denim into insulation while other companies recycle all types of fabric. I:CO (short for I:Collect) is a German textile recycling company that collects textile items from participating retail partners, and reuses or recycles them. They currently collect clothing and shoes in more than 60 countries.
Pic 4 Bean Bags Pic 4, Pic 5 Sorting boxes and bins
Pic 6 & Pic 7 Clothes swap amongst friends
For a fun-filled day with friends and family, swap or exchange clothes with someone who is more or less your size. This is one way of getting a slight wardrobe makeover and more importantly, such moments generate tremendous comradery and ‘we feeling’.
However, in the days of social distancing, best to have such a session out in outside with a lot of space and open air and stagger the timings of those participating. Best to host a virtual exchange and arrange contact-free delivery! The ‘new normal’, for you.
Repair and Repurpose
Clothes that need minimal repairing and patching up, should first be maintained. For damaged or ill-fitting clothes, look up DYI YouTube tutorial for recycling and repurposing your old clothes. If tailoring services are required, go to the local alteration tailor to cut and sew up whatever is being recreated. One recommendation is to downgrade your clothes to loungewear. Repurposing old clothes into loungewear is not only cheaper, it is eco-friendly as less will be purchased, less waste. With the recent stay at home routine, loungewear is a useful and a comfortable option.
Masks, bags, cushion covers, quilted blankets and many more can be repurposed from old, discarded clothes.
You can upcycle your old t-shirts and blouses and the rest of your discarded clothes into new items if you are creative
Clothes made of natural fibres such as cotton, linen, silk, and wool can be broken down and composted. Anything else made of blended fabrics, needs to be removed from the composting pile. So do items like zippers, buttons, and tags since these are not biodegradable.
Keep old textiles out of the landfill by reselling old items that have remained as good as new and even have the price tags on. Online and offline options are available. Facebook Marketplace apps like ThredUP, and eBay are helpful here. This is also an easy way to make money by selling what you no longer need and a wider audience can be reached by using these online platforms.
Retail Take-Back Programs
From time to time, Big Bazaar the hypermarket carries out exchange programmes in-store where your old clothes and items can be exchanged for discount vouchers for future purchases.
Pic 14. Big Bazaar Poster calling for exchange of old clothes & items
Some companies have instituted a take back program in their stores where you can drop off your old clothes at their stores and they recycle it for you. H&M accepts any brand and condition of old. Madewell accepts any brand of old jeans at their store with their denim recycling program where they are partnered with Blue Jeans Go Green.
Pic 15. Taking back blue jeans for denim recycling
To do your part towards and sustainable living reach out to local organizations and local government agencies and participate in their projects that to see if they have any projects related to your work that may be in need of clothing donations.
And you can always donate to local shelters to give to the people in need in your community. Here are some names and you can look up their social media pages: Clothes Box Foundation; Share At Door Step; Apang Manav Mandal; Mahesh Foundation; Clothes for Help
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