Learning more about recycling clothes for my last article, I realized there’s basically no good way to get rid of clothes that have really reached the end of their life. You can always repair clothes, swap, sell or upcycle them, but I’m talking panties that have unintended peepholes and that have lost all stretch, or socks that have largely dissolved. Together with camisoles, these are the garments that I typically wear completely out and throw in the bin. Of course this isn’t the crux of today’s global fashion problem, but I still wonder: Is there a way to prevent my peephole panties from ending up in landfill?
Female underwear often consists of multiple materials. Even when you buy undies made of biological cotton, there’s often still some sort of synthetic material involved. Whether that’s elastane to provide stretch, polyester thread for a durable design or synthetic paint. This means that the garments are not worth recycling for specialized companies. So even if we’d put our worn-out undies in H&M’s recycling bin, they’d most likely still end up on landfills.
Some brands, however, only use natural fibers and materials in their garments. You’d say that these clothes are biodegradable and could potentially solve the problem. Biodegradable seems to suggest that we can just toss them in the trash and they’ll dissolve somewhere, or we can even compost them ourselves. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. First of all, there’s a difference between biodegradable and compostable. If a product is labeled biodegradable, it has the potential to be broken down into other natural elements, but it needs some sort of biological process, for example with the help of fungi or bacteria. Even if a garment is labeled compostable, it might need special conditions to be composted. Moreover, if these garments end up in landfills, they most likely won’t decompose at all, because there is no oxygen to help them do that and they may produce methane (The Good Trade).
I do, however, really like the idea of composting my underwear. Wouldn’t it be great to throw in your undies with yesterdays’ peels and not having to worry about it anymore? I’ve looked into compostable underwear and apparently it does exist, but it’s actually a quiet recent thing. Even though there are many companies that are producing ‘sustainable’ underwear, there only seem to be a few that are into compostable ones.
The Very Good Bra
Australian based brand founded by designer Stephanie Devine. She started after a very successful campaign for a compostable bra at Kickstarter and now sells compostable underwear and sleep and loungewear.
USA brand that mainly focuses on panties.
USA brand that sells underwear as well as sports- and loungewear.
I’ll be sure to get some the next time I need some and hopefully, by the time I wear them out, I actually live some place I can start composting.
What Is The Difference Between Biodegradable And Compostable Goods?, The Good Trade
The World’s First Compostable Zero-Waste Bra and Underwear, Eco Warrior Princess, 2018