Clothing objects worn around the human body. In most cases, clothing is composed of textiles or fabrics, but in more recent times it has also included clothing made out of animal skins and other thick sheets of synthetic materials and natural materials usually found in the soil. Clothing objects that people wear for a variety of purposes. The objects may serve a utilitarian purpose: to protect the skin, keep warm, provide protection, etc. They can also serve aesthetic purposes such as to beautify the person wearing them and beautify particular outfits.
However, these days, recycling the clothes that we used can be a very good idea. It can be both environmental and economical. Recycling helps the material come back to life and can thus, be used again. Moreover, recycling encourages the use of more efficient and renewable resources. When used, clothes can make up a big part of one’s garbage – the by-products of textile manufacturing. This, in turn, can have important implications for the reduction of waste and degradation of the earth’s environment.
One major challenge in recycling clothing is that most clothes are not made from 100% recycled fabrics. There are some exceptions, when items like swimwear and T-shirts are made from virgin fibres, but these are few and far between. Recycling eliminates this problem because clothes made out of fibres taken from plants (i.e. vegetable oil) or animal (i.e. feathers, hair, wool) can be used again without the risk of deterioration, mildew or discolouration.
Some companies do exist that do undertake the task of recycling clothing. They recycle every year an estimated 10 tonnes of clothing material and another 10 tonnes of linen. These companies have developed systems that enable them to separate the fibre from the fabric, so as to be able to separate the two elements for re-furbishing and re-using. This has led to the processing of a large proportion of waste brought into their premises.
According to the Indian Fashion Institute, there are presently around 120 different types of organic and biodegradable textiles that are used to make clothing in India. Out of this, around half are used for everyday wear, while the rest are used for making jumpers, smocks, bed sheets, bedding, etc. The five most popular fabrics used in Indian clothing (based on colour) are: khadi, patiala, cotton, bamboo and jute. According to the Indian Fashion Week Magazine, based in New Delhi, Patiala and khadi “are the most difficult to recycle due to their colourfast nature”.
The recycling of clothing, therefore, offers an opportunity for manufacturers to utilise recycled fabrics in order to produce a high-quality product that will last a long time, making the best fashion statement for those who wear them. But while we applaud the enthusiasm of Indian women for recycling their old clothes and making their way towards cleaner, greener pastures, the same excitement is absent in the male population – in other words, the male population is not very keen on dressing “green”! This lack of interest in environmentally friendly fashion can partly be chalked up to a fear of “losing” fashion, and the associated connotations attached to it.
There is another reason why men are not keen on recycling their clothes. According to a report by the Environment Agency (EA), in 2021, only 7% of clothing was produced in countries that have a low impact on the environment. And, of this lot, nearly half of the clothing was produced using manual labour. Thus, if a person wants to do his bit for saving the planet, he would have to change his wardrobe… all of his clothes.
The clothing industry in developing countries often uses chemicals in their processes to impart coatings, dyes and finishes on garments, which, when worn, emit large amounts of toxic gases. Often, these chemicals leach into the water, the soil and the air, and there is little that can be done to solve this problem. At best, one could hope that the garment will last for a number of years without wearing away, and this is probably not an option for many poor people who still cannot afford to buy new clothes every so often. At the same time, the environmental impact caused by traditional garment manufacture is considerably greater than that of clothing produced using modern manufacturing methods. Thus, it seems that the clothing industry is not only suffering from a lack of interest in environmentally friendly fashion, but also from a lack of willingness to do anything about the damage done to the environment.