The European Union aims to achieve a climate-neutral economy by 2050, but that won’t happen if each industry doesn’t play its part. This applies as much to the textile industry as to any other, as it is the second biggest industrial polluter. In fact, more than half of all greenhouse gas emissions come from the production and usage of textile materials, including their extraction, transport, processing, waste management, and other related activities.
We can’t continue to close our eyes to the fact that the fashion and textile industries hurt the planet tremendously. Our consumption of 400% more textiles than was the case 20 years ago comes at an environmental cost – we pollute oceans with microplastics, the production and burning of textiles increase carbon emissions, and clothing production and washing uses enormous amounts of water and energy.
It’s really simple – if we don’t act now, we will eventually sink in our own textile waste.
That’s also why we’ve teamed up with the European Commission Representative in Estonia and the Ministry of the Environment, because it’s time to talk about the waste caused by the textile industry, what we can do, and what you can do. Working on a local level, we’re on a mission to change Estonians’ textile consumption habits for the better.
In 2018, the European Union adopted a circular economy package that will ensure that all member states will collect textile waste separately from other waste by 2025. So, now that we’re about to begin collecting textile waste separately, what will happen to the mountains of it? That’s what we’re on a mission to solve – we want to make textiles circular.
- The world is currently consuming 400% more clothing than it did 20 years ago.
- 73% of the clothes put on the market end up in landfill, or get burned in incinerators, and only 25-27% of disposed clothes are put back into circulation.
- 25% of the clothes in the European Union are collected separately, and only 1% is recycled into new clothes.
- Estonians consume 15,000 tonnes of new clothing and home textiles annually. Out of that, 4763 tonnes are disposed of and collected and 2408 tonnes end up in landfills.
- In Estonia, 68% of disposed clothing is collected as municipal waste.
- On average, an Estonian four-member family disposes of 280 pieces of clothing annually.
- In 2018, a total of 3.7kg of textile waste was collected per person which makes us the biggest disposers of textiles in the Baltics.
- In 2018, Estonians consumed 2.4kg of second-hand textiles per person.
What you can do
- Opt for slow fashion
- Unlike fast fashion, slow fashion clothing is of high quality and is meant to last. The philosophy supports trusted supply-chains, small-scale production, the use of local materials, and trans-seasonal garments.
- Instead of letting perfectly wearable clothes just sit in the closet, reuse them as much as possible, because that’s what they’re meant for.
- Before disposing of a broken piece of clothing, try to repair it first. Small holes are easy to repair and make unnoticeable!
- You can also choose to send your textiles for recycling, meaning that the threads from the fabric are made into yarn again and re-weaved into new products. For example, our knitwear is made out of recycled jeans.
- Upcycling is a way of giving your textiles more value than they had before. It can be done either out of pre-consumer or post-consumer waste, or as a combination of the two. It can also be done locally, where you for example make a new t-shirt out of old ones, or industrially, the way we make our Up-Shirts out of pre-consumer leftover materials in factories.
- Lease clothes for special occasions
- We know the feeling – dress to impress, and that once you’ve worn a dress to a wedding or some fancy event, there’s a temptation not to wear it again. Or perhaps it will be hang in your closet until another event comes along, and by then you might feel like buying a new one. However, there’s a more sustainable way of doing this – you can lease your outfit.
What we are doing
The Opinion Festival 2020 (Arvamusfestival)
In August, during the Opinion Festival (Arvamusfestival), we gathered in Paide, Estonia, where we set up a station together with Uuskasutuskeskus for upcycling textiles. People had the chance to bring their old textiles, whether they were a bit broken, stained, or just in need of an uplift, to give them a new life. Together we fixed small holes in jeans, added colorful patches onto t-shirts, upcycled clothing which people had donated to Uuskasutuskeskus, and attendees learned how to properly sort textiles.
Valuable Upcycling’ project
To keep the materials within consumption and and the production loop as long as possible, we partnered with the European Commission Representative in Estonia, the Ministry of the Environment, Uuskasutuskeskus, Hoolekandeteenused AS, Hea Hoog Foundation, and the Department of Prisons, to encourage people to upcycle more themselves. We wanted to showcase that jeans, the manufacturing of which has a very high environmental impact, can in fact be upcycled to something entirely different. We designed six home textile products which were to be produced out of jeans and home textiles which had been donated to Uuskasutuskeskus.
The new products are produced all over Estonia – female detainees at Tallinn Prison produce quilts, while the Hea Hoog Foundation produces aprons, oven cloths, textile bags, decorative pillows, and small rugs, in work centers in Tallinn, Rakvere, Rapla, Uuemõisa, and Võisiku. As you may realize, this project is as much about recycling and sustainability as it is also about the social aspect of giving a voice to those who are often left unheard and forgotten by our society.
This project was showcased as part of an exhibition at the 15th Tallinn Design Festival this year, and the final products will furnish the new AS Hoolekandeteenused homes which are due to be opened this year.