Clothes – from many retailers – have become almost disposable: we buy them cheaply, wear them for a few months and then chuck them out.
Many people are aware that super-cheap clothes may be manufactured in inhumane conditions, but do we stop to think about the environmental impact of simply binning stretched t-shirts and odd socks?
It takes up to 3,000 litres of water to make one cotton t-shirt. That’s equivalent to what an adult would drink over three years. And the environmental impact of the textile industry is not just impacting the producer countries, but also has a direct impact on life in the UK too. Textiles were the second biggest contributor to methane gas emissions from landfill last year. And although the UK as a nation is getting better at recycling its clothes, 450,000 tonnes of textiles still ended up in landfill, or being incinerated, last year alone.
While these problems may seem insurmountable, the enthusiasm of TRAID’s head of education, Lyla Patel Reynolds, is enough to counter any such negative feelings that could lead to apathy. The Grain Creative team was fortunate enough to attend an inspiring talk by Lyla, since TRAID is one of our partners as part of Grain’s commitment to protect the environment through One Percent for the Planet.
TRAID aims to make the wardrobes of Londoners more sustainable. They collect and reuse clothes. Some are sold in specialist shops, while others are broken down and reused. Even socks with holes in them can be shredded and remade into coarse fabric, although donating high-quality clothes is significantly more profitable.
The money raised is then used to transform the textile industry overseas in countries such as Bangladesh, Benin and Cambodia.
As well as collecting, recycling and distributing clothes around London, TRAID is also involved in educating young people in schools, and students in the fashion industry. And it has repair cafes to encourage local community members to get together to mend clothes and teach others how to do likewise.
There is a huge range of things we can all do to help: from pledging to buy more secondhand clothing to teaching our children to value what they have; and from recycling any unwanted garments lurking at the back of the wardrobe to learning to mend our own clothes.
Ultimately, the only solution to the environmental impact of the textile industry at home and abroad is to buy less clothing.
What will you choose to do?