Imagine a $140 million wardrobe — It would be what dreams are made of. That’s the value of the clothes going to landfill every year in Australia, according to BusinessWaste.com.au‘s Mark Hall. All that fashion buried in the grounds works out to be around 1.2 million tons. So what are we, and retailers doing about this?
In an interview with Ragtrader, Mark explained Australia is lagging behind other countries, where you can return old or unwanted goods to shops or manufacturers for recycling. Germany’s Puma is an example, which as part of its ethical and sustainable policy can have products returned for reprocessing once its shelf life is over.
But over here, Mark says we’re still relying on charity bins and second-hand shops to get rid of our unwanted clothes. “It’s virtually unheard of in Australia to take any item back to the shop where you bought it for recycling,” he told Ragtrader.
Thankfully, Aussie retailer Country Road stepped up to the plate a couple of years back in 2010, introducing a program which rewards customers with a $10 voucher for donating to the Red Cross. If you’ve ever wondered why there’s so much pre-loved Country Road at Red Cross stores during your weekend thrift shopping, now you know.
But a big part of the problem is more or less the production of biodegradable clothing, and Mark is urging designers and retailers to consider implementing this change. “If we can’t get out of the habit of binning old clothes, then why not make them easily recyclable?” he asked. Unfortunately there are still some misconceptions about the process, something he’s keen to address.
“Biodegradable clothing doesn’t mean it’s going to be made out of paper and will fall apart as soon as you put it through the wash,” Mark told Ragtrader. “These textiles are just as hard-wearing as the clothes you’re wearing now, but they’re less damaging to the environment and will slash landfill waste in the medium to long term.”
So next time you think you don’t have anything to wear, sure thing, have a browse around the shops for some new threads. You can also do your bit by keeping an eco-conscious eye on the fabrics you buy and the retailers you support. And, for the love of God, drop off your unwanted clothes to a charity store. No once-loved piece belongs in the dirt.