The Planet Can Be Saved by Wearing Vintage Clothing


There are many good reasons for everyone to recycle, not just plastics and metal, but also textiles. In the United States alone, residents dump approximately 2.5 billion pounds of materials into landfills yearly. That works out to nearly 10 pounds of clothing for every citizen. Most fabrics had a short lifespan and could have been fixed by mending or cleaning. However, the issue is not so much with the final destination of the product’s life cycle as with its origin. Sweatshops and the use of child labor are perennial issues in the textile and garment industries.

Sweatshops occur due to corporate avarice and international competition for the lowest cost of production. American consumers are insatiable, craving the latest and greatest in fashion and accessories. “Fast Fashion” supplies the market with cheap clothing aimed chiefly at young ladies, as EHP’s Luz Claudio stated. Fashion periodicals stoke the need for the latest “must-haves” in dress. “Girls, in particular, have an endless appetite for new clothes. They are always looking for the latest and greatest gadget. Because of the low price, more of it is purchased.

Corporations have realized that it is considerably more cost-effective to subcontract their manufacturing to suppliers that create things cheaply by minimizing the pay and benefits of their workers. At the same time, young men and women try to keep up with the current fashion trends at the lowest possible price. Despite their demands for maximum output, management often fails to maintain the plant and dorms to acceptable standards. They expect their employees to work long hours for free to achieve their aims. Because of their need for foreign investment, emerging countries are in a constant state of competitive low-price production, allowing US businesses to set the terms of the acquisition. According to an article published in Fast Company in December 2003, Walmart (the largest retailer in the country) has a policy that mandates suppliers constantly negotiate for lower rates. “Walmart has a clear policy for suppliers,” writes Charles Fishman of Fast Company. “On staple items that don’t change, Walmart’s price to suppliers and the prices it charges customers must decrease annually.” Stores compete for customers by offering “discount” prices to attract more buyers and pressuring suppliers to reduce costs. The demand for low-priced items only increases the financial strain on manufacturing owners. This causes factories to use tactics like mandatory overtime, poor wages, and punitive measures for inefficiency. Along with many other forms of abuse, this includes the intimidation of workers.

How you can make a change.

There doesn’t seem to be any “sweatshop-free” label currently available. To aid in implementing follow-up corrective programs for factories that violate labor rules, certain independent companies or monitors follow the supply chains of corporations that pay a fee for their service. Many of these monitors refrain from publicly praising companies or factories because of the quick nature with which working conditions might alter. However, in a few fields, recycling attempts have paid off in the form of recycled/vintage labels for a small but valuable selection of products. To reduce the prevalence of child labor in the fashion industry, some businesses repurpose or recycle previously used materials. Putting a Vintage Tag on products lets customers know that they are buying something that has been manufactured in a way that is both sustainable and ethical.

You may help end sweatshops and child labor by purchasing items that have been recycled, are fairly traded, are collaboratively created, or were made in a unionized facility. Other reputable groups have also called for boycotts to end harmful pesticide use, cruel animal testing, and unfair working conditions. A boycott can help bring attention to your cause and the company you’re targeting, whether you’re opposing the exploitation of workers at a national retail chain or campaigning against the construction of a garbage dump in your community.

One of the simplest and most impactful things you can do is to find ways to recycle your clothing and to make it easier for others to do the same. There are financial and ecological gains to be made by collecting and recycling old textiles.

If you recycle your textiles, you’ll take up less room in landfills. Unlike woolen clothing, which disintegrates and releases methane, contributing to global warming, synthetic (man-made fibers) products do not decompose in a landfill, creating unique challenges in this area. Additionally, when you recycle your textiles, you ease the burden on virgin resources, which means less pollution, fewer energy requirements, and fewer fibers imported from far away. This reduces the need for re-dying and sourcing, contributing significantly to environmental pollution and energy consumption during textile production when using virgin materials. Less wastewater, because it doesn’t need to be washed like raw wool does. It also lessens the demand for child labor and eliminates the necessity for sweatshops worldwide.

Methods of Collection

Customers can donate clothes to charity shops, clothing drives, or garment banks.

The Salvation Army runs more clothing donation centers than any other organization in the country. It is anticipated that these banks will collect approximately six tons of textiles annually. The Salvation Army’s textile recycling operations process more than 17,000 tons of clothes annually when combined with door-to-door collections. Donated items are distributed to those in need, sold at thrift stores, or shipped to countries across Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe. Almost 70% of donated clothing is worn again, while the remaining 30% is sold to recyclers or manufacturers as wiping cloths.

The skilled staff at a Rag House can sort and grade the vast array of fiber types brought about by introducing synthetics and blended fiber fabrics, which accounts for the vast majority of the textiles collected from donation centers and garment recycle bins. Items are distributed to their respective locations after being sorted. The majority of post-industrial garbage is recycled in-house. Fiber reclaimers also use scraps from the clothing industry to create new items of clothing, felt, and blankets. The “Vintage Wholesale Market” will buy some goods to be reused by designers who will make new clothes and bags from old ones. A tiny subset of textiles end up in vintage stores in the United States, Japan, and Europe, but that’s where companies like DF Vintage come in.

Possible Actions

Donate your old clothes to a charity. If there aren’t any donation centers in your area, you can ask the head of your local recycling authority why not; they may be collecting textiles in other ways. If that doesn’t work, try donating the clothes to a good cause in your area.

Donate your gently used garments to a thrift store or hand them to a younger sibling, friend, or acquaintance. Remember that merchants lose 6 percent of textiles due to untied shoes.

Thrift stores are great places to find one-of-a-kind clothing items. Remember that the proceeds from your purchase will go to a good cause if you make it at a thrift store.

Please don’t buy stuff because it’s in style. If you’re a passionate shopper or fashionista, you may still be environmentally conscious by purchasing things you’ll wear for a long time.

Try to find clothing with a high percentage of recycled materials. Even though there is currently no standard labeling scheme and some manufacturers do not consistently market recycled content, this information should be included on the label.
Vintage clothing information website has Ricky Coburn as a regular contributor.

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