The afterlife of your clothes
94% of Singapore’s textile waste gets incinerated while only 6% gets recycled
And recycled meaning exported to foreign markets not made into recycled fibre
Charities are receiving more than they can give away and without a local textile recycling plant here, 400 tonnes of secondhand clothing is exported every month.
These secondhand clothing is being sold to countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Phillipines where those donated clothes are resold at places like the Monja Market in Medan.
Watch how the patrons at Monja Market favour clothes from Singapore because they’re almost brand new which shows just how much clothes are not being worn to the fullest.
Social stigmas and hygiene concerns limit purchase of secondhand clothing within the country and there’s only so much thrift stores can contain at a period of time. Thrift stores also have to regularly rotate what’s being displayed and remove anything that’s not selling.
Other re-use methods, such as selling through online platforms, passing on to friends and family, or contributing to swapping events rely largely on clothes maintaining their value — the clothes have to be from a certain brand or meet some form of aesthetic standard.
Secondhand clothing undermine the economies of countries that import them and prevent economic growth. Instead of manufacturing their own and purchasing locally made or sourced clothing that ensures money stays in the economy, the people are wearing your used clothes simply because it’s cheaper.
More countries are imposing restrictions on the import of secondhand clothing for that very reason which means over time, your used clothing won’t have anywhere to go except the landfill. Your unwanted clothes either gets incinerated and contribute to toxic emissions or left to decompose and release methane — both ways channel to global warming.
Discarding just a small pile of clothes may seem harmless in your eyes but if you look at the big picture, that’s not really the case when done by billions of people around the world.
The afterlife of clothes reveals that buying quality clothes and less of them is the pathway to a more sustainable future.
How to reduce your impact
Buy less. Being sure about what you need is empowering. It’s what we’ve been cultivating through our work since day one by making products that last and only a few of them. Our e-book helps you to define exactly the clothes you should spend on and what to avoid through something we call the Wardrobe Worthy Cheat Sheet. Focusing on your bodily and lifestyle needs, instead of others, will narrow your options and you’ll soon find joy in having less.
Take care of your clothes. Even if the clothes are not made to last, you can take care of them and make them look good longer. Here are some tips.
Repurpose your clothes. Wear them for as long as you can and when they’re not in wearable condition, cut them up into rags. Clothes made from 100% linen or cotton make really good rags. The longer you keep them away from the landfill, the lower your impact on the environment.