Pollution from different materials, especially clothing, occurs not only when they are thrown away, but also when they are produced5! The cycle of wear begins even before natural resources such as water is used to produce the garment. For example, we must also add the water used to grow cotton or to feed animals that produce wool.
While there is an encouraging trend towards de-cluttering, North Americans continue to throw away many more textiles and household items than ever before. Every year, 11.5 billion kilograms of clothing and textiles find their way to landfill, 95% of which could be reused or recycled. In fact, extending the life of a garment reduces its environmental impact by 20 to 30% 1.
Here is some data on the recycling aspect of our clothing!
- 190,000 tonnes of textiles are thrown away by Quebecers every year2
- 97% of textile waste can be recycled2
- 2 million pairs of shoes are thrown away each year in Quebec2
- 100% of cotton can be recycled2
- 23 kg of textiles is discarded by an average Quebecer each year
- 2,2500 litres of water are used to produce a t-shirt and 11,000 litres for a pair of jeans8
- 10% of global pesticide consumption is used to produce cotton7
- 70 million barrels of gasoline are needed to produce polyester each year7
- It takes 1 to 5 years for wool gloves or socks to decompose. For leather shoes, from 25 to 40 years, and for textiles, from 100 to 500 years.
- Wash your clothes in cold water, it is more economical and does less damage to fragile fabric. This avoids wasting energy!
- Wash your jeans every 3 to 4 months. A study conducted in Canada showed that a pair of jeans worn for 15 months contains no more bacteria than a pair of jeans worn for 13 days. For odours, it is advisable to air your jeans by turning them inside-out. 6
Life in our closets
- 30% of people say they get rid of their clothes within two years;
- 76% will dispose of an object within 5 years;
- People get rid of their shoes even more often: 44% in less than 2 years and 85% in less than 5 years.
Consequences on the environment ! 4
Producing clothing emits more greenhouse gases (GHGs) than the total amount produced by international aviation and maritime transportation (and it does not even take into account the GHGs emitted during domestic washing and drying!);
this production uses 4% of the world’s fresh water (plus another 1% for washing), often in areas where drought is a frequent threat;
the production of vegetable (mainly cotton) and animal (mainly wool) fibres competes with the use of land for food production;
microfibres in fabrics made from plastics (mainly polyester, nylon and acrylic) break off during washing and end up in the oceans; this pollution is equivalent to the annual pollution of 50 billion plastic bottles;
If this trend continues:
- production will triple by 2050, exacerbating current problems;
- the amount of plastic microfibers released into the ocean will reach even greater quantities (about 0.7 million tonnes per year), and all this accumulates over the years;
- it is projected that the weight of clothing buried and incinerated from 2015 to 2050 would be 10 times the weight of the current world population.
Plastic-Free Challenge: Let’s recycle our clothing without waste.
On the day of the Super Recyclers Clothing Drive, avoid taking plastic bags. Take an old pillowcase or an old pair of jeans and fill it with the clothes you want to give. Let’s try to be 100% plastic-free! On the Super Recyclers website, you will find a video explaining how to turn your old pair of jeans into a pouch to collect the clothing.
1 Extending the Life of Clothes, Decembre 2015, Web
3 After the Binge, the Hangover : insights into the Minds of Clothing Consumers, Green peace, May 2017, Web
5 State of Reuse Report, 2018