Today many brands offer recycled clothes in an attempt to tout their environmental-friendly credentials. However, are recycled clothes genuinely environmentally-friendly? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is a big ‘NO’ as “less than 1%” of clothes are recycled every year.
Recycled clothes are based on thecircular economy concept and are often mistaken for impact-free purchases by consumers. These environmentally saver-tagged clothing, on the contrary, are a failed experiment and don’t reduce even an inch of planetary impact.
Here’s why recycled clothing has become synonymous with sustainability.
What Are Recycled Clothes?
Recycled clothes refer to the conversion of used or worn-out garments into reusable fibres. Recycled clothes open the pathway toward a more sustainable resource management future as they’re based on the notion of a circular economy.
As per this model, clothes cycle in a closed-loop while staying away from the natural environment. This helps to retain the value of clothes in the economy and lower the amount of one-time waste entering the environment.
Are Recycled Clothes Sustainable?
Today more than 60% of garments are made of synthetic fibres like elastane, acrylic, nylon, and polyester. These synthetic materials have a substantial negative impact on the environment and release plastic microfibers when washed.
Therefore, even if you recycle synthetics, the microplastic problem will still persist. So, the answer to the above question is no, as recycled clothes are not sustainable.
The main reason why recycled clothes are often confused with sustainable options is due to heavy greenwash advertising by the fashion industry.
How To Differentiate Between Sustainability And Greenwashing
Sustainability refers to the use of resources that don’t harm the natural environment. The principle of stewardship and transparency lies at the core of this practice. Hence, for a product to be genuinely sustainable, it should have traceable origins.
That is to say, its production line should be transparent and can be traced all the way back to its raw materials sourcing as wool.
Do you know that wool is one of the oldest sustainable textile materials on earth? It has a long lifespan, biodegrades readily, and doesn’t lead to microplastic problems.
An easy way to differentiate between sustainable and greenwashed products is by reading their composition and labels. Doing your fair share of research on products that you use will help you better understand their impact on the planet.
This trick can also be applied to your clothes. You should read the labels of your clothes just like how you read the ingredients list of your favourite pasta recipe.
Moreover, if you happen to stumble across a few doubts, ask the store’s sales representatives. As a customer, it’s your right to know everything about the product you’re purchasing.
You can also scour the website of the manufacturers or sellers for information on the production cycle of the commodity. This will also help you access the product’s carbon footprint and verify its sustainability credentials.
Recycled versions of polyester and synthetic fibres are often advertised as “more sustainable” and “conscious” choices, which they are not. Today, brands are more focused on churning out dozens of apparel collections in a year to attract and retain their customer base.
Therefore, it becomes your responsibility as a customer to question the ethical code of companies. This would also put pressure on the government to tighten the lease of the fashion industry and make way for innovation.