Environment – Why Buying Recycled Clothing Is Not Enough

Many companies claim that their fabrics are sustainable ​​because they are made from recycled or natural materials, but the reduction in environmental impact is very small.

Do you have clothes you never wear? Many people have their closets full of clothes and yet they want more and more. They need to be in the latest fashion and, if possible, rock the best bargains.

The sale of clothes in stores slowed down with the arrival of COVID-19, but online purchases soared. In Spain, they totaled 50% more than in the previous year, according to data released today by the National Commission for Markets and Competition, especially among those under 30 years of age.

this consumption connected it is increasingly common and has its consequences. Retailers are rapidly changing trends and offering new clothing, which translates into more waste and more carbon emissions into the atmosphere from manufacturing and shipping.

Global production in the textile sector has doubled in the last 15 years, but the number of times the same clothing is used has decreased by 36 percent. In addition, 73% of them end up being discarded in landfills.

Of fast fashion to fast buy

We already knew expressions like fast food (fast food), fast fashion (fast fashion) or fast delivery (fast delivery). Quick purchase or fast buy It consists of the direct purchase of products that appear in magazines or advertisements on buses using QR codes. Thus, fashion trends are available to consumers quickly and economically, in an infinite network, without the need to go to a physical store or buy them online.

The fact that the pieces are used for less time and are thrown away is a big problem for the environment. Some companies make clothing from recycled materials, but how much does that reduce their impact? The answer is not much.

Other initiatives are aimed at reusing garments in second-hand stores or recycling services. Creative circular economy practices were also proposed, including clothing rental services.

However, these solutions are cosmetic. Studies show that the only effective way to reduce the impact of clothing on the environment is, of course, to buy less clothing.

How to reduce the environmental impact of clothing

According to a new investigation At LUT University in Finland, the best way to buy clothes sustainably is to buy less and less.

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The researchers considered the impact of carbon on clothing by calculating the emissions produced at different stages of the life cycle of a cotton jeans.

Calculations were based on 200 uses of the garment. Experts compared different scenarios for the “end of life” of pants. Here, they’ve included using it over 200 times, reselling it at thrift stores, and making it out of recycled clothing materials.

New clothing manufacturing produces more than half of total carbon dioxide emissions

The main author of the study, Jarkko Levänen, said the choice of pants and the CO2 emissions left some other dimensions of sustainability out of their reach, but allowed them to delve deeper into the analysis.

Levänen’s team found that making new clothes produces more than half of the total carbon dioxide emissions, which means that even sustainable disposal practices cannot overcome the environmental impact of making new clothes. The best way to shop sustainably is to limit the amount of clothing we buy by using each item more often.

Renting clothes, a good option?

Many companies proudly claim that their fabrics are sustainable ​​because they are made from recycled materials. However, researchers have realized that using recycled textiles does not fully reduce the environmental impact, because cotton production generates quite low emissions compared to emissions from the recycling processes needed to make synthetic fabrics.

They also found that renting clothes increases the number of uses of a garment, which is good, but it can also accumulate transport emissions. Ultimately, clothing rental services that relied on shipping produced greater carbon dioxide emissions than if the clothes were thrown away. Although these results admit nuances. If the delivery of clothes could be carried out by bicycle or on foot, it would reduce the environmental impact as much as the reuse of clothes.

Levänen indicated that small changes in consumer behavior play a very important role and that we all need to reflect on consumer behavior and the real need to buy new clothes.

REFERENCE

Innovative recycling or extended use? Comparing the global warming potential of different ownership and end-of-life scenarios for textiles

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