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EPA promotes ways to reduce domestic clothing waste

08 April 2016

Maree Bakker from the EPA recently attended Kingborough’s Love Living Locally festival to promote reducing, re-using and recycling one type of household waste – our clothing.

The annual festival hosted by the Kingborough Council and the Lions Club has a sustainability focus and celebrates locally grown food and other produce. There’s usually an eclectic range of stalls from ethical investment to fresh juice, wood craft to vegie burgers, to name a few.

Maree explained the objectives of the EPA to protect the quality of the air, the land and water, to ensure acceptable levels of noise, and encourage the sustainable use of resources (also known as ‘reducing waste’).

“Data from the EPA indicates that Tasmanians dispose of about 0.77 tonnes of waste per person per year, about a third of which is domestic waste,” said Maree.

“In the past, I’ve promoted reducing marine litter and paper waste, but this year’s focus was on one component of domestic waste which is often overlooked – clothing and textiles,” she said.

Maree conducted children’s activities on the day, focussing on re-using waste wool, and for the adults, she presented information on the environmental and social impacts of our predisposition to consuming and wasting large amounts of clothing.

“Significant amounts of water, energy and pesticides are used for textile production, and there are also unsafe and undesirable conditions under which people work to make garments in the developing world,” Maree said.

“While we obviously need to wear clothes, we don’t need to be at the whim of every fashion trend,” she said.

“Australians donate over 50,000 tonnes of clothing and textiles every year to charity, 25 per cent of which is not suitable for reclamation, partly because of the overwhelming volume of clothes donated and also because clothes are increasingly poorly made.

“In 2011, Australians bought one billion items of clothing, which equates to 41 items per person in that year alone, and we discard a lot of clothes, some of which are never worn,” she said.

So what are Maree’s tips for reducing, re-using and recycling our clothing waste?

REDUCE: buy good quality clothes, and only what you need

RE-USE: have a garage sale or host a clothes swap party

REPAIR: learn to darn your socks and patch your jeans

RECYCLE: use fabric from one item to make a new item