Fashion has a big problem with waste and waste management.
Elementum is taking initiative to close the loop.
This is an Open Call for Fashion Brands and Designers to help increase consumer awareness to Recycling of Clothes, as well as to Sustainable and Zero Waste choices and actions consumers can already take.
Including design to recycle feature (as suggested below) on their clothes is a small and simple action with which brands and designers can pressure the Fashion system to evolve and offer sustainable solutions to reduce the volume of pre-consumer trash and post-consumer trash that is generated from the production and consumption of clothes.
Since its foundation, Elementum is dedicated to reducing waste from production and consumption cycles. In 2018 we decided to make another step forward.
With our close the loop initiative we aim to increase consumer awareness for the importance and the possibilities of recycling clothes, as well as to stimulate action both from citizens and fashion brands to act and improve recycling circles of fashion products.
Basically, we are asking our community to help us and close the loop on fashion waste.
Elementum takes supports the Fashion Revolution movement. This is important, but perhaps a revolution alone is not enough. We also must demand that fashion as a system will evolve to meet critical standards in terms of sustainability and waste management.
We are drawing our analogy from the packaging industry where every package has a set of indications of where and how to recycle it.
If we design for use, we should also design for reuse. When the moment comes, when our products become meaningless and are thrown to the trash, we must make it clear to consumers how to dispose of sustainably and correctly.
Essentially we are asking fashion brands to adopt and add recycling codes, icons or instructions to their products, directly or on the labels they use, just like the care instructions and icons that we find stitched to our clothes.
Why is closing the loop so important?
The fashion industry and fashion brands have been kind in letting consumers know what their clothes are made of and how to care for their clothes. However, considering it is one of the top 5 most polluting industries in the world, consumer recycling of fashion goods (post-consumer waste) is not addressed effectively; not by the brands, not by the industry.
In the United Kingdom, 300,000 tons of clothes are trashed every year. That is about 235 million (235,000,000) items ending up in the landfill every year, in a country of about 66 million inhabitants. How many people live in your country?
According to usagain.com, in 2012 from 13 million tons of post-consumer fashion waste, only 2 million were recycled. And according to Newsweek magazine, the average American trashes 36KG of clothing per year. In total all that “trash” accumulates to 14 million tons of clothes end up in landfills every year. The EPA estimates that applying a recycling program for clothes would be equal to putting 7.3 million cars and their carbon dioxide emissions off the road.
Finally, if you think that giving your clothes away for charity, think again. You should be aware that most of it will be shipped to African countries, and only a few percents of what goes to charity ends up in vintage and charity shops. Dumping clothes in African countries means that, first, most clothes will still end up in landfills, second, that giving free clothes is preventing these countries from developing their economy. Where clothes are for free, what kind of fashion design industry can you develop? What kind of value is there for traditional textile crafts?
Why aren't we recycling?
Surprisingly textiles and fashion has a long history of make and do, reuse, upcycling and recycling. Wool has been recycled for more than 200 years. Cotton also has a very old history of reuse and recycling - for centuries-old cotton clothes were used for making paper.
Plastic is a young material when compared with the history of cotton and wool. Plastic yarns include polyester, polyamide, acrylic, etc. We can recycle plastic in fashion. For example, we can use of the PET bottles to make recycled polyester yarn. This means that if you are planning to throw away your old polyester shirt, better put it in the plastic recycling container. Because Polyester is PET.
Tencel and Lyocel fiber technology even younger than plastics. The best thing about it is that it replaces the very polluting process of making viscose fibers with a closed loop process that is far less water polluting. Furthermore, this technology has been recently adapted for recycling/reusing cotton fibers. This variation is called Refibra, with this closed loop process we can break old cotton clothes into fibers and reyarn them into raw cotton yarn.
So if we can do a lot of recycling in fashion why aren’t we recycling ??
The answer is because many consumers are:
First, unaware of how to recycle, and;
Second, have no access to fashion waste recycling programs.
This is a big shame because today, with technologies like Tencel and Refibra, and plastic recycling, it is possible to recycle and reuse both synthetic made (plastic-based) and natural made (cellulose-based) textiles.
How can we close the loop?
We all know how to wash and care for our clothes, it is indicated on the labels.
We also know how to recycle products that use or consume, it is indicated on the packaging.
While many products use these icons and codes on their packaging together with instruction on how to recycle them - as required by law. In fashion the standard is to let consumers know only how to wash and care for their clothes. You will not see recycling instructions on your clothes, and for almost all of the brands the foresight of the life cycle of the product ends here in how the product will be used.
So what we need now is not really a Fashion Revolution, we need a Fashion Evolution.
We need to demand it and also to bring it about with our hands and choices.
Fashion is a part of the F.M.C.G. Sector. That sector of the market that is all about FAST MOVING CONSUMER GOODS. FMCG products include almost everything we buy. From sweets and snacks to cosmetics, from batteries to jeans, and the list of products is unimaginable. Most of these products come with indications of how to recycle them, what to do with what is left after consuming or using the product. Except clothes.
So essentially what close the loop is about, is demanding from governments, and big fashion industry stakeholders that the recycling codes for textile will be updated to allow the recycling of an increasing technological complexity of materials used in fashion.
From fashion brand consumers need to demand to be informed. Why are we separating brands from policy makers?
Because Fashion brands and consumers can start acting now.
There is no need to wait for new regulation and implementation of new standards in the fashion industry.
Small brands and consumers can act faster than big brands when it comes to adopting and implementing a new policy.
Small brands and consumers can act locally and within their own community to emphasize approach and reach goals.
Let’s close the loop.
Our first step is to make the knowledge of how to recycle a fashion item as common as the knowledge of how to wash and care for these items.
In 2018 Our team at Elementum designed and started using recycling symbols on our product labels. The clothing recycling symbols we use are based on the universal recycling symbol, logo or icon, which is an internationally recognized symbol that is used to designate recyclable materials. The recycling symbol is in the public domain and free to use. You can find it, and other very important and free to use icon on recycling.com.
We developed four recycling clothes symbols, depending on the material fabric from which clothes are made. Clothes are usually made from:
Protein yarns made from hair, wool, and silk;
Natural yarns made from cellulite or plant fibers like cotton, cupro, hemp, linen, viscose, tencel, lyocell, bamboo etc.
Synthetic yarns made from plastic fibers like polyester (PET), polyamide (PA), acrylic, elastane etc.
Mixed yarns made from a combination of plastic and natural fibers. For example, 95%cotton 5% elastane, or 45% wool 35% acrylic 20%polyester.
With our Close the Loop initiative we are asking fashion brands like us to make a pledge to use recycling symbols on their clothing labels (which normally containing material, size, and washing information). These recycling icons are to be placed next to the washing and care icons (on the clothing label).
For Designers: You can use this symbol for any item that is made from 100% plant fibers or cellulite fibers like Cotton, Hemp, Linen, Bamboo, Banana, Lyocell, Tencel, Viscose and so on.
For Consumers: All these fibers are used in paper production and can decompose in nature. If you can't pass down, reuse, upcycle, or even compost your cotton item or T-shirt, consider throwing it paper recycling container.
For Designers: You can use this symbol for any item that is made from 100% plastic fibers like Polyester, Lycra, Acrylic, Polyamide and so on.
For Consumers: Plastic made materials cannot decompose in nature. To the contrary, they pollute nature with poisonous micro particles and micro fibers. When possible, items made from plastics are being recycled back into plastic grains for the plastic products industry. If you can't pass down, reuse or upcycle your polyester item or T-shirt, consider throwing it plastic recycling container.
For Designers: You can use this symbol for any item that is made from 100% protein fibers like Wool and silk
For Consumers: Wool and silk fibers can decompose in nature, but they also have a higher value than other plant based fibers. That is why they are being recycled for isolation material, or even respun to produce new items. If you can't pass down, reuse, upcycle, or compost your wool/silk item, shirt, or pullover, consider finding clothes recycling container to put it in.
For Designers: You can use this symbol for any item that is made from a mixture of protein fibers like Wool and silk, natural fibers, like viscose, and plastic fibers, like polyester, elastane and acrylic. Please, think twice before choosing to work with mixed fibers because...
For Consumers: Unfortunately, buying items made from mixed fibers is a very poor choice. We recommend not to do so. The plastic in these item won't let them decompose in nature, instead it will further pollute the environment. Such items can’t be recycled in the same way 100% cotton or 100% wool can be recycled. They might be shredded and reused for isolation material, but most likely they end up in landfills. Still, the trash bin is not the best option if you are planning to throw a mixed fibers Item away, consider finding clothes recycling container to put it in.
Close the Loop Clothings recycling symbols are free for use and could be downloaded for free through the links below.
If you are a fashion brand or designer and would like to join this initiative to close the loop, please let us know so that we can add your name or brand's logo to the list of brands supporting this initiative. Help us close the loop.
We hope that together we can build a community around this subject a round table where we can discuss this action, refresh our approach, and lobby for better resource vs. trash management in the Fashion market and industry.