Government urged to provide better clothing recycling options

Between 100,000-200,000 tonnes of textile waste is sent to landfill each year (file image). Photo...
Between 100,000-200,000 tonnes of textile waste is sent to landfill each year (file image). Photo: Getty
There are growing calls for the Government to introduce viable ways people can recycle clothing in order to tackle the country's growing waste crisis.

Globally, the average consumer purchases 60 per cent more clothing than they did two decades ago.

In New Zealand between 100-200,000 tonnes of textile waste is sent to landfill each year, where it can not break down but releases toxic greenhouse gases. 

A few years ago, Christchurch City Council ran a campaign telling people to put their "unwanted" clothing in the red rubbish bin.

Resource Recovery Manager Ross Trotter says at the time, it was contaminating recycling bins.

"That causes problems at the plant where the recycling is process because it becomes tangled in the equipment and causes stoppages so if it can't be reused it needs to go in the red bin."

The messaging seems to have helped and clothing is appearing less and less in recycling bins in the city.

Clothing is appearing less and less in recycling bins in the city. Photo: Newsline
Clothing is appearing less and less in recycling bins in the city. Photo: Newsline
But Trotter admitted the rubbish bin was not the best place for unwanted clothing either.

A rubbish truck emblazoned with a message to put unwanted clothing in the bin had some concerned that clothing was seen as general waste.

"The reason is it can be confusing and we will be putting different messaging on that truck. It was effective in doing what it was meant to do, however, we would like to push a better message that makes sure that the opporutnity to divert that material is recognised and it gets reused in the first place."

He said the message only remains on one truck in the city - which was due to be re-painted in the next few months.

On the council's website it clarifies only damaged clothing should go in the bin - the rest can be donated or sold.

But donating creates another issue.

Professor Jennifer Whitty, sustainable systems researcher, designer and educator, said "We think we're doing better by sending it to an op shop or clothing shop ... but that enables passing the buck. We know that our op shops are drowning in second hand clothes."

In the last few decades, textile waste has skyrocketed and retailers need to be held responsible for the whole life cycle of a product, Whitty said.

"They need to take entire responsibility ... not just to the point of retail."

Clothing companies like Little Yellow Bird have taken things into its own hands - you can send back anything you own that is 100 per cent cotton whether it is a tea towel, t-shirt, they even take or socks.

If it is still good quality they will do a swap with an opshop and take something off their hands that is too damaged - but otherwise the clothing is upcycled locally or used to make new material overseas.

At the moment the making of new material happens in Europe because New Zealand's simply not set up to do it.

But Little Yellow Bird has received funding from the Ministry for the Environment to study whether it could work - and how. 

 

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