This week, I answer questions about fashion waste for Make.Good, a new website dedicated to sustainability in fashion. In the interview, I talk about my experiences following the chain of our used clothing from New York through many hands and around the world to new markets, such as Kena. I explain how the second-hand clothing market works in plain terms and share easy tips we can all take to have a more sustainable wardrobe and keep our clothes in use for longer.
Here are some highlights from our chat:
On why fashion waste is such a problem:
“Landfilled clothing is a waste of resources, resources that we don’t have to spare. We know that fashion production is responsible for about 8% of carbon emissions per year, more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined.”
On why the secondhand clothing industry is not equipped to deal with the influx of fashion waste:
“What’s missing in this system is actual recycling technology, where old clothes are used as the raw materials for new clothes. There are many companies working toward true disruption and innovation in this process and hopefully we are on the cusp of change.
On consumer outrage about charities selling and exporting clothing donations:
“It’s the responsibility of any person who donates anything—clothes, food, money—to understand where their donations are going and who and what they serve. Charities are not dumps or waste bins.”
“Charities receive far too much clothing to sell it all locally or even to give it away. There are around 43,000 pounds of unwanted clothes collected on average each hour in the U.S., enough to fill three Olympic sized pools. As you can see, the problem here is consumers, not charities. We over consume and buy too many clothes and then want our wasted clothing to be considered a virtue and insist that it must help someone in need. It’s craziness.”
On how to cut back on fashion waste in our everyday lives:
“It’s not enough to tell people to buy less. They need to know less of what? I estimate that at least half of our clothing purchases are items that we either will never or rarely wear, many of which are purchased because they’re heavily discounted. We can focus on those bad buys and price-motivated purchases and eliminate them.”
Read the full interview and additional tips on tackling textile waste here.