By the rate textile consumption and landfill dumping is going, if not already, then very soon textile will be the new plastic. Not only are fashionistas with closets bigger than bedrooms in need of a reality check, most millennials swap jeans faster than smartphones.
Recycling textile is as urgent as recycling other matter like plastic because most textiles are not organic, they do not decompose in a landfill. The amount of water and resources it takes to produce textiles is also enormous (water footprint of a pair of jeans is 7,980 litres.) Recycling textile saves resources by creating less demand for new textile production and reduces landfill pollution.
Bear in mind that any textile, such as carpets, curtains, and couches, can be recycled, not only clothes.
The clothing donation bin is probably the oldest known form of recycling textiles. There is a lot of controversy regarding these bins in different parts of the world. In various states of the US, there was a surge of "fake donation bins" claiming to "collect items for charity," but in truth selling the clothes for profit. Since the distribution of bins was not regulated, parking lots “rented” space for fake bins. Misleading donors is not right, so choose your bin wisely before you dump your textiles.
If recycling is your goal and you don’t care if profit is made, then any donation bin will do. Many bins are under social enterprises, giving a percentage of their profits to charity and investing in development projects. Humana is one of these well-known chains that make a profit, but it also creates jobs, provides a platform to reuse clothes, and contributes to projects that better the world.
But if the idea of an organisation making “riches” off your rags bothers you, then look for donation bins that collect clothing specifically for charity and are not for profit. It is important to note that due to excess clothing production and very cheap prices, used clothing that is not “trendy” is not as wanted as before. Perhaps do a clothing swap with your friends to find better and more loving owners of your old clothes.
It’s also interesting to know what happens to clothes and textiles that can’t be reworn, how they are recycled. Just pull the threads out of a dress and convert it into a blouse? Not that easy. A small fraction of textiles actually go through this type of transformation process. There are many technical barriers and fashion trends change too fast to keep the recycled clothing relevant. Most textiles are converted to industrial textiles and fibers, such as home insulation, carpet padding, and material for automotive production.
Part of being a more “caring” industry, retail stores accept textile donations and get sustainability marketing points. Some give a discount for your next purchase if you bring in used textiles. Yes, it is a contradiction to recycle textile and immediately buy new clothes, and H&M’s “own development sustainability manager admitted that only 0.1 percent of returned clothing was reused for new textiles.”
Still, H&M retailers find a way to put textile to use. They produce so much clothing in excess that “a power and heating station in the town of Vasteras, northwest of Stockholm, reportedly burns defective H&M garments donated by the company instead of coal in an effort to reduce fossil fuels.” In less developed countries like Kenya, old clothes are simply burned in open air, without using the energy.
These days clothing is made of much poorer quality than what it used to be and fashion trends are changing faster than ever before. The real way to combat this emergent rival of plastic is to boycott it. Buy high quality clothing that will last decades and forego being a hip dandy. Consumers have to show producers what they want and by the laws of demand and supply, the scales should be tipped.
So we don’t have a perfect model of recycling textile yet. Just do not throw that old sock in a normal bin, and be more creative with the clothes that you already have.
Uttar Pradesh in India is not a great place to be a woman. Quite the opposite in fact. The northern Indian state has high levels of violence against women, who are often failed by the police and the legal system leaving them waiting a long time for a fair trial and justice.
Tired of the poor justice system, Sampat Pal Devi founded the Gulabi Gang, an organisation that aims to challenge the deeply patriarchal structure of her society.
As a group that now boasts 400,000 women who wear pink saris and carry large sticks to beat offenders, they have not gone unnoticed and are making a mark in Northern India.
"Yes, we fight rapists with lathis [sticks]. If we find the culprit, we thrash him black and blue so he dare not attempt to do wrong to any girl or a woman again."
However, Gulabi Gang isn’t just about beating local abusers. The group’s main focus is on empowering women, promoting equality and challenging stereotypes. This is carried out through several practices including training women in self-defence, persuading families to educate girls and putting an end to child marriage.
The Gulabi Gang also hope to empower women by providing them with resources that'll help them gain economic freedom. They organise events with companies where women can be hired. They currently collaborate with a local business, which employs over 500 women and allows them to earn up to 150 rupees a day.
Considering only 27 percent of Indian women are in the labour force Gulabi Gang's work is quite impressive.
Pal definitely knows what she wants for the women in India and is not afraid to be considered a controversial figure in order to get it, saying:
“Society will only change if we eliminate the inherently subordinate role given to women. This is a revolution that has to come from us. Therefore, besides having established self-help and legal counselling groups to address individual cases, we focus on programmes to achieve their emancipation... If we women don't save ourselves, nobody will”
The Gulabi Gang are really taking women’s rights and empowerment into their own hands and are considered a force to be reckoned with across the globe. Although Sampat Pal Devi’s direct approach might be seen as controversial in some circles, there is no denying she is making an impact.
After graduating from Gaza’s Islamic University with an engineering degree, Majd Mashharawi looked around in her city to see high unemployment rates, war-torn infrastructure and blockades limiting the supply of resources and materials.
In 2016, Mashharawi and her friend Rawan Abddllaht decided to do something about the state their city was in and invented a new form of brick made from rubble and ash in order to, quite literally, rebuild the city from its ashes.
Costing just half the price of traditional bricks, Mashharawi’s replaces sand and aggregate with her new formula called "GreenCake" to produce a lightweight brick from materials that would have otherwise been wasted.
Not only materials needed to produce GreenCake are easy to find and cheap: GreenCake also has a positive environmental impact. The innovative brick uses ash from local restaurants and factories that would have otherwise been dumped into a landfill, posing environmental threats.
Mashharawi and Rawan’s efforts did not go unnoticed and the pair won first place in a local startup incubator, supplying them with funds to create their first 1,000 bricks in 2016.
Mashharawi didn't stop with building Gaza from its ashes but also decided to work on saving it from darkness. She and her team are expanding into renewable energy technologies for people in Gaza. The city only receives three to six hours of electricity a day, which affects it's residents severely in many ways, from the quality of life to education, from socialising to economic growth.
But According to Mashhrawi, "[T]he region has a resource that can be harnessed: an average of 320 days of sunshine a year, making solar energy an ideal source of electricity production."
The SunBox, one of her projects, aims to address this: it is a solar energy technology that generates 1,000 watts of electricity, enough to power four lamps, two laptops, two phones, an internet router and a small refrigerator for a full day.
Mashharawi made it to Fast Company's Most Creative People in Business 2018 list, and rightfully so. She is finding sustainable and realistic solutions to her local communities problems that can be extended to many other places in the world, and she's doing all of this while sticking it to the patriarchy.
Three years from now, you may be able to buy a very special brand of meat in your neighbourhood supermarket. In that, no defenceless animal was raised and slaughtered to produce it.
Yes, thanks to the efforts of some brilliant minds in biotechnology and meat production, cultured meat is finally on its way towards becoming a commercial reality.
Mosa Meat, a Dutch startup, recently announced that it had raised 7.5 million euros to commercialise cultured meat — meat produced from animal cells rather than slaughter — and bring it to the market by 2021. In this initiative, the startup collaborated with Bell Food Group, a Swiss meat producer, and M Ventures, a venture capital firm.
“Replacing traditional meat production with cultured meat would have a huge impact on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, it would free up a large number of resources that are now used for meat production worldwide and will completely disrupt an old-established and currently unsustainable industry,” said Alexander Hoffmann, principal at M Ventures. “We’re incredibly excited to be leading this investment into Mosa Meat, a company at the unique cross-section of food and biotech.”
It’s clear that the global livestock will not be able to sustain the exploding world population for long, which is why the idea of cultured meat could be a lifesaver in the coming decades. Professor Mark Post, a pathfinder in cultured meat production and the co-founder of Mosa Meat, realized this early when he began trying to create the world’s first cultured beef burger, succeeding in 2013.
This marks yet another giant stride in finding sustainable alternatives in terms of food consumption. Here’s hoping that more such brainwaves follow soon.