By Diane Small
Have you ever thrown clothing in the bin, thinking ‘well, it’s just one old jumper. And it only cost a tenner’? It may seem like a very small addition to landfill, but when we all do it, it adds up to an environmental disaster.
The art installation contains a whopping 360kg of discarded clothing. And guess what? It represented the amount of textiles dumped into Hong Kong’s landfills not every day or even every hour, but every two minutes!
The exhibit, in collaboration with clothing care experts, Miele, with design by students from Hong Kong Baptist University’s Academy of Visual Arts, raises awareness about our shockingly high clothing and textile waste rates that we collectively generate and the negative environmental impacts associated with discarding them into landfill.
Christina Dean, Founder of Redress said, ‘Clothing and textile waste rates around the world are now at horrific levels, which we need tackle urgently. We are now buying and treating clothes like disposable goods. When we consume so much, we tend to dispose of more and this unpalatable pattern of clothing waste, which we see in Hong Kong and elsewhere in the world, is creating vast negative environmental and social impacts.’
There are many reasons there’s so much clothing waste
First is the fact that fast fashion allows us to consume ‘junk clothing’ like never before. We think nothing of buying a trendy top because it’s cheap–even though we know we’ll only get a season of wear out of it, if that. This isn’t just wasteful on our pocketbook (10 cheap tops thrown out every season equals one good top you can use forever!) but ultimately, this means that all of the resources that went into producing our clothes, from the various raw materials, energy and water used during production, are also wasted.
Another problem is that today, we don’t know how to take care of our clothing, even the expensive stuff. While our grannies grew up mending holes in socks, adjusting hemlines with the latest trends, using tricks passed down through the generations to remove stains, and even making their own clothing, our mother’s generation (and ours!) thinks nothing of tossing out a shirt just because a button popped off–something our ancestors would find horrifyingly wasteful!
Finally, many of us don’t know what to do with old clothing. While some, such as cotton tees or socks, can be used as cleaning rags, we often don’t know what to do with unwanted clothes. It’s up to municipalities to create recycling bins for textiles–after all, there is increased demand for these, as seen by both Kering and H&M using Born Again fabrics, which are made using recycled textiles.
The Y WASTE? exhibit asks consumers to question their relationship with their clothes and provides supporting information on the issues, with advice about how individuals can create positive change through their wardrobes. In addition educational side activities complement the exhibit, including DIY fashion workshops and an educational talk, which are both open to the public.
Following the exhibit, all clothes within the sculpture will be donated to local charities to drive broader benefits to the Hong Kong community.
Here’s what you can do to reduce your own textile waste:
1. Stop buying fast fashion. The impact of this is far more harmful than you think, from using enormous amounts of water and land to product materials, to exploiting poorer people on the planet to make those garments. To really understand the full cost of fast fashion, the film The True Cost is a must see.
2. Learn to sew buttons, mend socks and get stains out yourself. It’s easy! There are plenty of web tutorials to help you. Never throw something out because it’s less than perfect–you can fix it! And for more complicated issues, such as broken heels on shoes, take them to your local shoe repair.
3. Ask your municipality to provide recycling bins for clothing. This is a good potential business prospect for them, as they could sell the items to Worn Again or other such companies that recycle clothing. Otherwise, wash your unwanted clothing and head to your nearest charity to donate them (if you’re in the UK, you can find one close to you here. In the USA, click here). Often, what they don’t sell in the shop, they do sell to recycling companies, or donate to those in need.