Zero Waste Blog #1

In the first of a series of blogs, our Zero Waste Perth co-ordinator Sam Martens tackles the subject of clothing waste - and how everyone can help reduce it.

We’ve all been there - needing that pair of shoes or that new outfit for a special occasion. And the cost of this retail therapy? A bulging wardrobe of neglected garments and a lighter wallet. But there is another, less fashionable hidden cost to keeping up with the latest trends - the environmental impacts. When buying something new, we know we have to dispose of various tags and packaging, but Stacey Dooley's documentary, Fashion’s Dirty Secrets also highlighted the environmental impacts of our clothing supply chains. It showed that producing one carrier bag of clothing used the equivalent of 80 years’ worth of drinking water for the average person. This is in addition to the pollution emitted and pesticides used within the production lines of most major brands. This gives us a sense of the sheer scale of the environmental problem.

With this in mind we held our Swish Plus event last month as part of Zero Waste Scotland’s national Pass It on Week. A ‘Swish’, for those unfamiliar with the concept, is a clothes swap event where the currency is clothing. Guests bring in their preloved clothes (in good condition) and are allocated tokens based on quantities, quality and clothing type. These can then be exchanged for whatever else has been brought to the swish and whole new outfits can be designed whilst creating zero waste in the process. At our event, we had stylists, image consultants and dress makers on hand to help guests create the perfect bespoke outfit. Whoever said that zero waste wasn’t fashionable?

Aside from a bit of a fun, the event demonstrated the value of clothing that might have little value in the back of our cupboards, but could be of real value to someone else. And if there isn't a Swish event planned locally, clothes in good condition will be happily received by your local charity shop (you could even snag yourself an unbelievable zero waste bargain or two). Perth & Kinross Council has produced this handy map showing the local charity shops accepting donations www.pkc.gov.uk/wheretodonate

There are also other ways you can help the environment. Using the correct laundry, storage and repair methods, you can prolong the life of your favourite garments. We had experts on hand at our event offering guidance on how you to ‘Love Your Clothes’ and keep them in top condition for longer. Finally, when those much loved trousers or jerseys are worn out to the maximum you can take them along to a textile recycling point where they can be collected for re-processing into padding for chairs and car seats, cleaning cloths and sound proofing. Your nearest collection point can be found using the Find My Nearest tool on the Perth & Kinross Council website.

So before you head to the High Street in search of a new outfit for the next special occasion check out your local charity or reuse shop. You might find that perfect item that’ll not only have you looking great; you’ll be feeling great too with the knowledge you’re well on the road to being a planet saving zero waste hero.

Pictured (clockwise from top left): clothing waste statistics; browsing at the Swish event; Swish event experts at our event in Perth; a Swish event stall. Click on an image to view larger version.

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