TEXTILE WASTE MANAGEMENT

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Written by

Soumya Annapurna Kalluri- Founder of dwij upcycled in India

Textile waste, is mindful consumption the only way ahead? 

The increasing ill effects of ‘fast fashion’ 

The last few years have seen significant development in the fashion industry, where free trade agreements between various countries has made it easy for brands to manufacture their products in countries where labor is cheap, and transport it all across the world. This has led to the phenomenon of ‘fast fashion’, which has significantly contributed to rising consumerism. 

Consumerism driven by falling prices and disposable clothing are creating more waste with every passing year. Large quantities of oil and water, two natural and non-renewable resources that are becoming scarce are used to produce synthetic fibres. Toxic chemicals are used to dye clothes to their desired colour, which is also a water intensive operation. In 2015 alone, 98 million tonnes of oil was consumed to produce synthetic fibres. If we consider jeans, it takes as much as 10,000 liters of water to grow enough cotton for a pair of jeans and other chemicals in abundance to achieve the typical faded appearance. 

After so many harmful procedures, the average number of times a garment is worn before it ceases to be used has decreased by 36% compared to 15 years ago, while the production has doubled during this period. As per NYtimes, H&M- the Swedish retail giant, currently has a buildup of staggering USD 4.3 Bn of unsold inventory across the world, which is comparable to the total raw material and finished textiles of USD 5.3 Bn imported by India during FY18. Worse, around 80 to 100 billion garments that are not used even once are sent to landfills globally every year. 

These trends are the typical indicators of the increasing phenomenon of ‘fast fashion’. While there are people who repurpose their clothes, the number is still negligible. The awareness of, the adverse effects of the textile industry and the concept of upcycling is however still at a nascent stage. While the awareness of plastic waste has gained momentum, the adverse effects of textile waste largely goes unnoticed. 

What is upcycling? 

When we hear the term “best out of waste”, one example that comes to our mind is a patched blanket or a carry bag made out of old saree which our grandmothers fondly made by conserving resources. ‘Upcycling’ 

Textile waste, is mindful consumption the only way ahead? 

is a term that refers to the same principle of conservation where a discarded material is turned into a higher quality/higher value product, while at the same time increasing the longevity of the material. 

dwij is trying to address the problem of textile waste 

“Dwij”, meaning second life (द्वि = Twice, ज = Born) in Sanskrit works with a mission to promote circular products made from upcycled post-consumer garments and post-industrial garment waste that would otherwise end up in landfill. One of the major objectives of dwij is to increase the awareness of ill effects of textile waste, and the need for upcycling. The focus on hygiene remains a top priority to ensure that the customer views an upcycled product at par with a virgin product. 

Dwij currently makes a product range that includes utility bags, shopping bags, handbags, and other accessory products targeted for an environmentally conscious consumer. Dwij has a special focus on jeans since it is a versatile fabric, highly popular, durable and extremely sturdy. Further, as mentioned above, the environmental costs of manufacturing of jeans in immense. Most people discard jeans because they fade off or the size no longer fits. The properties of jeans gives a very good opportunity to upcycle into other value added items that increases the lifespan of the fabric. 

Dwij has an inhouse manufacturing set up, while they also engage women who work from home. Dwij aspires to adopt zero waste practices. As a zero waste initiative, dwij also makes jewellery from the cut- outs of its own manufacturing waste. Since its inception, Dwij has upcycled more than 3,500 pairs of jeans, 1200m of post industrial fabric & 800m of post industrial kurti fabric. 

What can be done by you as a consumer? 

Textile waste, is mindful consumption the only way ahead? 

The rising and largely unaware phenomenon of textile dumping has reached such magnanimous volumes that leads us to the point that textile collection and old textile treatment is not a solution. Dwij believes that incremental changes to individual lifestyle can lead to a sustainable future. 

Sustainability is more than just a buzzword. It’s time that we practice it too. The solution is to change our consumerism behavior. 

Check your closet before buying new garments, repair your old ones and re-use, prefer quality over quantity, and simply “don’t buy too much”. Clothes for special occasions or meant for single use may also be borrowed. 

Awareness needs to be created about the importance of conservation through upcycling of everyday items at home. We also need to realize that once thorough washing procedures are followed, upcycled products are also as hygenic as a new product. 

Together we can easily fight fast fashion and transform the world through sustainable living!