Date: January 2021

Giving old clothes and fabrics a new lease of life

The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world, after oil. It contributes heavily to microfibre pollution in our oceans, introducing plastic into our food chain, it takes thousands of litres of water to produce one item of clothing and the toxic chemicals used in some processes contaminate our fresh waters.

Every year a family in the western world throw away an average of 30kg of clothing of which only 15% is recycled or donated, the rest goes directly to landfill. In the UK alone, around £140 million, or 350,000 tonnes worth of used but still wearable clothing goes to landfill every year. This means our planet is slowly filling up with unwanted clothing, which may have only been worn a handful of times at best thanks to the rise of ‘fast fashion’. Fast fashion, just like fast food, refers to the mass production of cheap clothing intended to keep up with every season, mid-season and growing trends, causing millions of garments to be produced every year with a huge amount of waste as it’s lasting impact. Around 72% of our clothing is made up of some form of synthetic fibres, and because they are non-biodegradable it can take up to 200 years for a single item to decompose at a landfill site.

This may all seem a little doom and gloom, but it is important we begin to learn where our clothes have come from, how they are impacting our environment, and where they end up once you have decided that jacket is ‘so last season’ or the button from your jeans has fallen off. So how can we, as individuals, make a difference? There are many ways in which we can reduce our impact when it comes to clothes. Here are just a few to give you some inspiration! Make sure to scroll to the bottom of this page to discover our latest Make Do and Mend Mission!

Buy higher quality, less often 

As the saying goes, buy cheap buy twice. It is hard to resist a good sale or a cheap £3 t-shirt, but it is time to consider the impact this is having on our environment. Instead, try and think about the clothes you actually want or need. If you need a new t-shirt, think about waiting and saving up money for something made at a higher quality. It is more likely to last longer, you will look after it better and we are less likely to buy four of the same thing, reducing our impact on the clothing industry.

Shop sustainable

Although not as readily available as their high-street counterparts, the more we seek out sustainable clothing, the more they will become mainstream. There are many sustainable brands making a name for themselves in the fashion industry and investing in these items often means investing in a higher quality too. If seeking out sustainable brands feels like a bit too out of your budget for the moment, there is another way to shop even more sustainably - go second hand. Charity shops, vintage stores and even rental schemes mean you can find hidden gems and high quality pieces which have already been made, worn and loved. Giving these items a new home means you can enjoy the feeling of getting new clothing without having actually purchased something brand new, reducing the impact of the clothing industry on our planet.

Repair, reuse, repurpose

Many of us may already have a wardrobe full of clothes of which a large majority we may not have worn for a few months, maybe even a few years. You may have decided you don’t like the style any more, the buttons could have fallen off or maybe it was a gift from your Mum which you smiled politely at, but swore you would never be seen in. These unwanted items are banished to the back of the wardrobe never to see the light of day, until you decide to have a clear out and it is a short trip into a black bin bag. Instead, consider giving these clothes a new lease of life. Buttons can be easily repaired, maybe that old t shirt can be turned into a stylish bag or perhaps a new zip and a pocket sewn up is all that jacket needed. Repurposing or repairing clothes is a great way to make use of what you have without buying more. With enough crafty sewing work, you could create a whole new wardrobe from clothing and fabric already in your home.

Do you have a great knowledge of, or passion for sewing?

Westbank are on the hunt for a team of volunteers who will help run our Make Do and Mend sessions. Supporting eight sewing participants, the Make Do and Mend mission is to help reduce textile waste by teaching people basic sewing skills to mend, repair, alter and reuse fabrics. Giving old clothes and fabrics a new lease of life, and participants important life skills you could be apart of something very special and help us tackle clothing waste one hat at a time!

Find out more about this volunteering role or contact Katheryn on 01395 446896.