Many of us like to think that recycling and donating old clothes to charity is the way to reduce the carbon footprint of clothes.
But is it really?
Most of the clothes we think will end up being recycled ends up anywhere BUT being recycled. That is because we do not yet have the recycling technology for all fibres. Most of our clothes are a blend of materials (polyester, cotton) and unfortunately til today we do not have the technology to separate and process these materials efficiently. Secondly, the chemicals used to dye and shape garments are difficult to remove and can degrade the clothing.
Some headway has been made by certain research groups such as the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel. However, are we there yet in 'closing the loop'? Not quite. Most clothes end up on a downward trajectory spiral, i.e. the landfill.
'I give my clothes to charity. Hence I am doing good and can continue buying as I am giving back.'
Once again, the reality is that 70% of clothes donated to charity globally ends up in Africa. In turn, these clothes either sit in the landfill (the place everyone is trying to avoid by giving to charity) or is sold on secondhand (yay! right?... Maybe not) and this ends up damaging the local textile economy. What a mind field!
So still think that buying fast fashion is fine because you can 'donate' it or 'recycle' it?