Where do clothes go when they die?

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  • AvatarLisaWynne
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    LisaWynne

    Okay, maybe that topic title is a little morbid, but HI! I’m keen to hear about your resell, donation, reuse, or disposal habits for clothes you want rid of.

    We all know that the best thing unwanted clothing can become is new clothing for someone else – whether through swap events, depop selling, passing them on to sisters and cousins, or donating to charity shops – but what happens to garments and home textiles that aren’t quite up to another use in their current state? Much of it is exported, which can support second-hand markets in other countries, but if the quality is too low, then we are just exporting a waste problem. Some will be shredded or downcycled in some way to be used as insulation or furniture filler. Recycling at a fiber-level (breaking down old clothes and spinning new yarn for making new fabric) is only possible with pure fibers (much of fast fashion is made of mixed fibers) and doesn’t yield as good a quality as new fibers, particularly in cotton (one highly developed exception is nylon – companies can make, recycle, and remake without losing quality! Though it is of course a resource-heavy process).

    Anyway! I am currently studying at the UCD Innovation Academy for a Postgraduate Certificate in Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship, focusing my work on the issue of textile waste. I’m looking at intervening in current waste streams to recover usable materials at points I think are currently untapped and therefore entering waste processes before their use is exhausted.

    My background is in art and design, with some costume, teaching, writing, and communications work along the way; I studied fashion design about ten years ago and have since found myself unable to really find a fulfilling place in the industry. I’m really keen on circular economy, material reuse, and making. I’m using my time and resources on this course to engage in one area of the breadth of sustainability challenges in fashion in a meaningful and effective way, and I would really value hearing about what you do with your old clothes, where or how you dispose of them, or any concerns you might have about how textile waste is handled in Ireland. I’m particularly keen to hear from anyone working at any touchpoint of the current textile reuse and/or waste streams, such as in charity shops!

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