Compostable Panties

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?

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Why It Is Still So Hard To Recycle Our Clothes

The fashion industry is struggling with a huge waste problem. And even though recycling is totally normal to us, recycling clothes is not something that we necessarily consider. Sadly, only 1-10% of clothes that we donate is actually resold and a big part of it ends up in landfills or incinerators. Donating your clothes is NOT recycling them (read my article on what happens to our donated clothes here). Though I believe that the most important way to change the fashion industry is for us consumers to buy less, I also think that a sustainable industry is a circular one. The production of textiles is draining our planet, while their destruction is polluting it. Circularity could drastically decrease both problems. Recycling plays a pivotal role in creating a circular system. Why then, are we not recycling?

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What Dyeing Does

Exactly one year ago I visited a talk on sustainable fabrics during the opening weekend of De Wasserij, a fashion-hub in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. One of the guests was Andriana Landegent, an entrepreneur who, with her company Ecological Republic, was one of the first to supply 100% biological and naturally dyed fabrics to the fashion industry. During that talk I realized that even though certain fabrics are made of biological materials, they probably underwent a chemical dyeing process. This changed my perception of sustainable clothing once again. Dyeing fabrics is a nasty business. Luckily, some amazing innovations are changing the game!

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How Our Clothes End Up in Landfills

Millions of tonnes of textile waste end up in landfills or incinerators each year (BBC 2020, Fixing Fashion 2019). There is no recent or reliable data on exact global numbers, but NBCLX (2020) talks about ten million tons of clothes for the US alone in 2015 and CBC News (2018) mentions three times a baseball stadium a year in Canada. I can’t even grasp the amount of clothes we’re talking about. Almost all of these garments are chemically treated and a big part is made of plastic-based materials. Needless to say that they cause a big threat to our environment. These enormous numbers got me wondering though. How do so many clothes end up in landfills? When I can’t resell or swap garments, I usually bring them to charity shops and almost everybody I know does the same thing. How is it possible, then, that so many clothes end up in landfills?

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Reduce the Impact of Your Wardrobe

I’ve been reading again and again that the fashion industry’s biggest climate impact is actually made in the consumer phase. Knowing about the immense amount of greenhouse gasses and toxic pollution that the production phase entails, this surprises me. What is so harmful about taking care of our clothes? What surprised me is that on top of washing and drying, even wearing our clothes has an impact.

Don’t despair though! There’s things you can do.

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My thoughts on wearing (second-hand) leather

I used to think it was fine to wear second-hand leather. Over the years I bought some amazing leather and suede skirts in thrift shops. Truth be told, I also own a leather jacket which I bought new some ten years ago and I still buy the occasional pair of leather shoes. However, when I would see somebody in a fur coat, I would be shocked. Even if I knew it was second-hand. A conversation I had a while back made me reconsider this. Why should a second-hand fur coat be different from brand new leather shoes? I couldn’t convince myself of an answer. Ever since, I’ve been wanting to look further into this topic to create a well-informed opinion. Fortunately, leather was elaborately discussed last week in the course ‘Fashion and Sustainability’ that I’m taking, by the London College of Fashion. A great opportunity for me to learn more and share my thoughts with you.

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Manifesto

I grew up in the North-West of Europe, in the Netherlands to be precise, where capitalism and consumerism have been leading principles since the nineties. Me and my sisters must have shared over twenty barbies and every birthday and Christmas there’d be piles of gifts to unpack. Buying cheap clothing was the accompanying norm. I would go and buy clothes with my friends during school breaks. We’d have small budgets and want to buy a lot, so we’d only go to fast-fashion chains like H&M, Coolcat, Bershka and later Primark. We didn’t consider the quality of garments, or how often we would wear them. At the time, we didn’t know any better.

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Organic vs Sustainable (or Responsible) Cotton

Hema is a Dutch brand where I love to buy my undergarments. It has been a household name in Netherlands for decades, known for its nice stores and good quality products. Most garments either have a label that says ‘biological cotton’, or ‘responsible cotton’. This gave me the impression that my undies were honestly and sustainably produced. The other day I was in one of the stores and my eye fell on these labels again. I wondered: what is the difference between biological and responsible cotton?

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