Textile waste is a problem. This is because the world population has increased, but the amount of clothing produced is much more than it should be.

People can thank fast fashion. The trend that started in the 1990s has now taken over globally, as consumers insist on keeping up with the latest trends. People want the instant gratification of wearing what celebrities and catwalks deem The Next Big Thing – and they want it fast.

To produce this type of instant fashion, manufacturers are cutting corners. They are creating cheap garments that people only need to wear a few times before discarding them.

The result is an incredible increase in the textile waste management problem. All those fast fashion items that we throw away end up in landfills. In addition, manufacturing this clothing and the resultant textile waste are harming the planet.

Sobering fabric waste statistics

·    The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that in 2018, America generated 17 million tons of textile. Of that, 11.3 million tons ended up in landfills. 

·    4 years later, in 2022, 21 billion pounds of products made from textile waste ended up in landfills. 

·    According to Earth.org, of the 100 billion garments people manufacture globally in a year, 92 million tonnes of textile waste ends in landfills. 

·    Of that hefty 92 million tonnes of textile waste the UK is wasting 336,000 tonnes, throwing these garments away with their rubbish – that’s a lot of used clothing!

·    It takes more than 2 centuries for these fabrics to decompose in a landfill. While these textiles decompose in landfills, the textile waste generates methane gas.

·    What is the result? Because of textile waste toxic chemicals and dyes are landing up in our soil.

The saddest fact about fabric waste…

In the UK, each Briton produces 3.1kg of textile waste a year. Of this amount of textile waste people only recycle 0.3kg and reuse 0.4kg of the textiles. And they incinerate 0.8kg of textile waste annually.

Worst of all, they dispose of 1.7kg per person of textile waste in landfills.

What can we do to increase fabric waste recycling?

Some clothing brands are trying to keep garments and textiles out of landfills. Their textile waste management includes producing fabrics in a more eco-friendly manner. This way they make sure the textiles have less environmental impact on the planet, which offers better ways for us to dispose of textile waste in every way possible.

How you can reduce fabric waste in the UK?

We’ve researched the most effective methods of textiles waste reduction:

Reuse and recycle old clothes

It takes a lot of time and money for sustainable textile production. Unfortunately textile waste management methods don’t come cheap. We’re talking about textile waste systems that help manufacturers create textiles using less water and more eco-friendly dyes to print on them.

Spending the money on more sustainably produced new textiles is worth it if you want to help reduce waste and save the planet. We're talking about using textiles made from natural fibres, which is fibre recycling, not recycling textiles.

If you reuse and recycle old clothes, this will increase textile waste management in the industry.

Textile recyclers collect old jeans, T-shirts, and sweatshirts, as well as old socks (we all have some). If we give these textile items a second life, the textiles won't end up in landfills. 

Send them to be recycled, or look out for ‘new’ clothes made from old ones, produced by several brands including H&M.

Choose textile recycling

A popular method of recycling clothes is to buy gently worn items. Many savvy stores now offer fabulous ranges of recycled designer wear. People have worn this type of clothing only a few times or they have looked after the items carefully.

You’ll find numerous treasures from textile recycling – clothes people have made with care using beautiful, natural textiles. These are slow fashion items that are giving textiles a second life and are well worth investing in.

Go for quality over quantity

No matter if your business manufactures clothes, or you are purchasing items made from fabric, always choose a quality textile over quantity. Cheap clothes abound – fast fashion, which we will discuss in more detail below, is one of the reasons for this.

Textile recycling involves manufacturers avoiding using bad quality, cheap textiles to make any product in their range. Also, try not to purchase textile items for your home or business that people have made using good quality textiles. 

Remember: factories produce and dye good quality textiles more sustainably. They also use less harmful chemicals and dyes to dye those textiles. And if you choose sustainable textiles, that’s even better.

When you wash quality textiles made from natural fibres like silk, cotton and linen, these textiles don’t produce harmful substances. They are good for you and they are also good for the environment.

Don’t buy fast fashion 

By fast fashion we mean the items clothing factories manufacture from inexpensive fabric. These garments don’t last. Worse, the factories make them in bulk, so there's lots of them. They often make this type of clothing in factories that don’t use sustainable methods of clothes production or sustainable textiles. Those factories also don’t offer great working conditions, either.

Often factories employ children to do the work, and companies do not pay people fair wages. It’s a vicious circle, which is completely unsustainable. And we need to stop this.

This industry is the reason that landfills are filling up with waste textiles. They produce inexpensive fashion garments from textiles that don't last. So people discard these garments and they end up as waste in landfill. This results in a massive impact on the environment and the planet.

The fashion industry dyes these cheap textiles using synthetic dyes that they manufacture from harmful chemicals. And the amount of water required to produce cheap fabric is extensive, too. 

Read our information guide about The problem with fast fashion: how the fashion industry is damaging the environment. We’ve also compiled a comprehensive blog on How Clothes and Fabric recycling can transform the future. This makes excellent reading.

Conserve water for future generations

That brings us to the next topic, which is saving water. As we’ve just said, manufacturing cheap fabric requires more water – and we should be doing our best to conserve water right now.

Eco-friendly manufacturers use textile dying and manufacturing processes that utilise less water and less energy. maake also conserves energy and water when we print on textiles.

When we manufacture textile products, we try to create as little environmental impact as possible. That’s what circular economy action is all about.

Be sustainable in every way you can

Whether you’re running a home or a business, you must think about how you can reduce textile waste and save the environment.

Follow our lead. At maake, we create a sustainable environment to work. Here, being eco-friendly includes everything that you do, from stopping the use of plastic in the kitchen to using more sustainable packaging methods for your products. Even a small change makes a big impact on textile waste and sustainability.

Follow our example: textile waste and recycling efforts

At maake, we do things differently:

  • We work daily to make everything we do more sustainable.
  • We source the textiles we use to print on ethically from local UK-trusted mills where possible. This is how we help our local economy and reduce our carbon footprint.
  • Sustainable innovation is our motto. We try to minimise our impact on the environment through our textile waste initiatives.
  • maake's textiles printing processes require 95% less energy than traditional textile printers. 
  • Our company uses only 100% renewable energy sources to print on textiles.
  • Our textile product manufacturing is eco-conscious. To limit waste further, we use virtually no water.
  • When we print on cotton and linen textiles at maake, our textile printers produce less than a thimbleful of ink waste per 100m.
  • All our textile inks meet Oeko-Tex 100 Class 1 and GOTS 5.0 requirements. (Read our extensive list of fabric certifications right here.)
  • Textiles we use are safe for kids (EN71-3 certified).
  • The focus at maake is on zero textile waste and sustainability. We send excess textile scraps to charities, schools and other establishments.
  • Also, we have various sizes of upcycling bags full of textiles available to all our customers – absolutely free! These are filled with leftover textiles and you can read all about our sustainability initiatives for textiles. What’s more, you can order your recycled textiles free!

Order your free upcycling bag of textiles here

·      Printing machines we use for textile printing have special energy-saving cut-off switches; this reduces energy consumption and waste when the machines are not in use.

·      And we only print every textile on demand – we print only the textile amount you order to minimise textile waste and ink waste too.

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