The prevention of textile waste accumulation.

Research shows that decomposing clothing releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas and a significant contributor to climate change. Waste accumulation by the fast fashion industry is also responsible for fabric dyes and chemicals that leak into the soil, contaminating both surface and groundwater. Instead of dumping unwanted clothes, the best response is to recycle. Landfills are swimming in recyclable materials including clothes, shoes, jewelry and plastic, which people fail to proactively assemble into their respective recycling groups. These patterns are mostly observed in first-world countries where fashion changes rapidly. In South Africa, however, our textile waste to landfill is low. How can we then, as South African consumers, set an example for the global arena to reduce their fashion waste accumulation?

Research conducted by the University of Pretoria confirms that South African consumers are willing to donate their unwanted clothes due to the high number of charitable causes and needy communities. Developing countries have more use for recycled clothing than in developed countries due to need. In South Africa, particularly, there is a culture of preserving clothes within a family for future generations. For example a mother with 3 children will ensure that those children can share clothes as long as they are in good condition and repairable. New clothes are still purchased in these contexts, but rarely so due to cost and usage, it is also imperative that the new clothes are selected very carefully ensuring longevity and good quality. This practise falls under one of the six forms of sustainable fashion of biodegradable and recyclable products. This involves the use of materials which are produced through natural methods, free from pesticides and synthetic substances. Developing countries are the epicentre of preventing fashion waste accumulation, and as a result our practices should be standardized.

Sustainable fashion in developing nations is well-grounded in meticulous aesthetics by which products are designed to last. Contemporary fashion needs should therefore move away from linearity reflected in the take-make dispose logic of the 21st century, and this is not only for developed countries but for the growing middle classes in developing nations as well. People need to accept the mentality by which products are used and re-used. This is known as the cradle to cradle mentality which stipulates that product disposal should be treated as an entrance to the next product life cycle. This philosophy encourages the reduction of waste, the preservation of natural resources and products already created. This process begins with the usage of the correct materials, educating buyers on the responsible ways of consumption and sustainable production methods such as zero-waste pattern cutting, a technique that eliminates textile waste at the design stage. Above using recycled materials to produce eco-friendly clothes, we can use natural fibres to ensure low impact solutions for fashion production. Materials such as hemp, organic cotton and linen can be used to produce clothing that lasts long, can be mended and recycled to have a long life cycle. Products can be produced in small scales, be highly durable as well as serve local needs.

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