Why It Is Still So Hard To Recycle Our Clothes

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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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How Our Clothes End Up in Landfills

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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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