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Sustainable Style: What happens to the clothes you donate to opshops?

Fashion journalist Clare Press appeared on the ABC’s Lateline to talk about the rise of fast fashion globally, and its far-reaching consequences on both the industry and labour markets. Vision courtesy ABC News 24.

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Fashion journalist Clare Press appeared on the ABC’s Lateline to talk about the rise of fast fashion globally, and its far-reaching consequences on both the industry and labour markets. Vision courtesy ABC News 24.

Problem is, that sweater may well end up in landfill even so. Those shorts should make it to the shop floor, since they’ve never been worn, but when their next owner realises they make her look a Battenberg cake, they might be off to landfill too. Where they will stay. For up to 200 years, being polyester, which is essentially plastic and non-biodegradable.

Even if they were made of natural fibres which would more easily break down, warns sustainable textiles whiz Clara Vuletich, landfill is not some lovely composting situation.

“Conditions aren’t right for the efficient breakdown of even those textiles marketed as sustainable and biodegradable,” she says. “Basically, you don’t want to send clothing to landfill.”

Yet that’s exactly what we do. Australians are the second largest consumers of new textiles after north America. We buy on average 27 kilograms per capita each year. We can’t fit it all in our bulging wardrobes. According to ABS stats for 2009/10, Australians send 500,000 of tonnes leather and textiles waste to landfill yearly. Chances are that figure is higher now.

Our fashion habit is out of control. We’re buying more and more clothes, at cheaper and cheaper prices, and it’s unsustainable.

Fast fashion giants like Forever 21, Topshop, H&M, Zara are central to conversations about the over-production and consumption of clothing, but it’s not just them. Less obviously trend driven stores like Rivers, Lowes, Target and K-mart are also spewing out cheap garments no one expects to last for years. Sometimes it’s more expensive to dryclean a dress than to buy a replacement. Right now Rivers is on sale, for example, and womenswear prices start at $5.

Many of our clothing cast-offs are of such poor quality that they cannot be on-sold, either through opshops to thrifty fashionistas or to companies that dispatch garments by the kilo to Africa.

Such items “don’t last in laundering,” Megan Wood, manager of Vinnies Newtown, told Lateline. “They don’t last in wearing. They don’t keep their shape.”

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He explains that damaged cotton garments can be sold for industrial rags, “suitable garments can be on-sold internationally” by third parties (although the revenue generated is minimal) but “if it’s not good enough for either of those outcomes, unfortunately we must send it to the tip.

“Nationally, our annual waste collection and disposal bill is somewhere between $5millon and $6 million.” Read that again. SIX MILLION BUCKS. Now, that’s not all clothing of course, it’s household junk and all sorts, but is it not to our very great shame, as a society, that we use charity shops as rubbish dumps?

And yet these guys carry on regardless, doing their wonderful community work, and paying their “sorters” to comb through our old junk to find the gems that are worth something.

Clare Press is the of Wardrobe Crisis, How We Went From Sunday Best to Fast Fashion

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Source: http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/fashion/sustainable-style-what-happens-to-the-clothes-you-donate-to-opshops-20170328-gv8hgl.html

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