The average lifetime of a garment is estimated to be for a period of three years. After the time period, they are thrown away as old clothes. Even useful garments are discarded as they are no longer fashionable, or desirable. A report states that more than one million tones of textiles are condemned every year. Huge quantities of old clothing end up in the landfill instead of being recycled and reused. Of the house hold garbage, textiles make about 3 percent by weight. Textile wastes also arise during the process of yarn and fabric manufacture, garment making, etc. They are called as post industrial wastes. All this thrown clothing has a potential for recycling and reuse. 80 percent of the textiles that are thrown away can be recycled and used again, whereas, currently only 25 percent is being recycled. Less than 5 percent of all the garments that is thrown in the bin actually end up as waste.
All clothing has a useful second life. The collected garments are sorted and graded as natural, synthetic and blended fabrics. Good quality clothing is sent to charity institutions and is used as second hand clothing. Unwearable textiles are considered as damaged textiles, and are processed in the factory as rags. Rags are collected and sent to the wiping and flocking industry. Other materials will be sent for fibre reclamation and stuffing. Fibres from the old fabrics are reclaimed and are used for making new garments. Threads from the fabric is pulled out and used for re-weaving new garments or blankets. Both natural and synthetic fibres can be recycled this way. Incoming textiles are graded into type and color. Initially the material is shredded into fibres called shoddy. Later based on the end use, other fibres are blended with shoddy. The blended mixture is carded, and spun for weaving or knitting.
The garment is shredded for fillers in car insulation, roofing felts, loudspeaker cones, furniture padding, panel linings and many other uses. Woolen garments are sent to other firms that make fibre reclamation to make yarn and fabric. Cotton clothes are recycled and used for paper manufacture, automotive, and mining industries and various other uses. Some old clothes are being reused in a creative way by fashion designers to make fashionable garments and bags. Fibres made from recycled PET plastic bottles are used in the active sportswear market.
Advantages of recycling:
Percentage usage of discarded textiles
Textile recycling helps in the protection of environment as well. Recycled clothes reduce the landfill space. Landfill sites pose a threat to the environment and water supplies. When it rains, water drains through the discarded clothes and picks up hazardous chemicals and bleaches. This water turns out to be toxic. Textile made from synthetic fibres will not decompose quickly whereas fabrics like wool releases methane, during decomposition and both fibres ultimately cause global warming. When these fabrics are recycled, this hazard will be reduced to a considerable extent. It saves on consumption of energy, as recycled clothes need not be re-dyed or sourced. Reduced usage of dyes and chemicals minimizes their manufacture and ultimately the adverse effects of their manufacture. Of all the old clothing, 70 % is used as second hand clothing, 6 % is waste bags and zips, 8 % is used for reclaiming fibres and making recycled products, 7 % is used as wiping material and the remaining 9 % is shredded and used as stuffing. It is a surprising fact that over 70 percent of the worlds population uses second hand clothing. Raw materials acquired out of recycled fabrics cost less; making it an attractive feature for manufacturers.
Customizing own and old clothes:
It is an amazing fact to know, that clothes that are considered as useless can be creatively used to make something new.
- Old clothes can be reused for making cushions, handbags, quilts etc.
- Damaged clothing can be used as rags and dusters.
- Bright colored fabrics can be used for borders in a lampshade.
- Head and wrist bands can be made with fabrics with electrifying colors.
- Old garments can be transformed into works of art; like sewing patches, buttons and beads into old garments, ironing graphics, etc.
From the early age of industrial revolution, textile industry is being identified as a major polluter of rivers. Attempts to minimize wastage are now on focus due to increased environmental awareness. Currently, there is an increasing awareness among people regarding waste collection and recycling. Developing a potential market for recycled textiles by buying such recycled products will reduce the wastage going to landfill.
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