Make recycling textiles fashionable

Fashion is ever-changing and always revolving around the latest styles and trends. Hence, the birth of fast fashion, where new lines of clothing are mass-manufactured to keep up with the current trends.

These fashionable yet affordable clothing leads us to believe we need to shop more to stay on top of trends. However, most of us end up throwing away our clothes because they are out of style, despite wearing them only a few times.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) reported that more than 140,000 tonnes of textile and leather waste was disposed of by Singaporeans last year, of which only 6 per cent was recycled.

The Semakau landfill, Singapore's only landfill, might be unable to accommodate our textile waste in the near future, as it is projected to run out of space in 2035.

As consumers, we may not be aware of the connection between our clothing consumption and the resultant waste that it produces.

While I applaud fast-fashion companies such as H&M for developing initiatives to reduce the environmental impact of textile waste, such as allowing for the exchange of old clothing for discount vouchers in many of its outlets, more can be done to change the mindset of Singaporeans.

For instance, the National University of Singapore has clothes bins, known as Green Wardrobes, on its campus for people to donate their old clothes in the hope of encouraging a reduction in clothes consumption while giving new life to their old clothes.

Clothes collected are sent to a vendor to be sorted into the wearables, to be sold cheaply, and the non-wearables which are sent to the marine industry to be used as rags. A portion of the profits from the sale of old clothes is also donated to disadvantaged families.

More of such initiatives could be implemented in housing areas to give Singaporeans avenues to recycle their old clothes and help the less fortunate. Perhaps the next time people grab extra pieces of clothing to hit the "buy three, get one free" sales deal, they will step back and consider how this might affect the environment.

Wei Yongji

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2018, with the headline 'Make recycling textiles fashionable'. Print Edition | Subscribe