Thursday 23 May 2013

What To Do With An Old Ned's Atomic Dustbin T-Shirt

You're a good person. You must be. You read this blog. Because you're a good person, you reuse, retask and recycle. If there are clothes in your wardrobe that you no longer need, then you take them down to the local clothes bank or charity shop. Then you leave them there, warm in the knowledge that your old band t-shirt will be warming the back of a kid in Africa, helping them out and spreading the word about Ned's Atomic Dustbin at the same time.
That's not necessarily the case, though. In a fascinating article for NPR, journalist Jackie Northam has followed the story of what happens to donated clothing. If you have dreams of that Ned's t-shirt going to the Congo, then be prepared for a let-down.
80 per cent of clothes donated to local charities will be picked up by recycling companies--your local Oxfam simply doesn't have the room to store the billions of pounds of clothing that floods in each year. That clothing is then graded, sorted and packed for export and reuse.
At least half of that thick bale of cloth is destined for humble use: cleaning cloths for industrial use, or broken down into fibre for insulation and stuffing. Which is the most likely use for your tatty old Ned's t-shirt, despite the history and sweat of a hundred gigs soaked into every thread.
For clothes to be resold as clothes, they have to be of good quality. Which means that for the sort of items coming out of the cheap fashion factories of Bangladesh, there's simply no market. Would you buy a second-hand pair of Primark leggings? There, you see the problem. There's a reason that vintage clothing is so prized--it's made to last in a way that most fast fashion isn't designed to contend with.
Even with all this goodwill, and the encouraging sign that clothes recycling has become big business, there's still a long way to go. It's estimated that 85% of clothing bought this year will end up in landfill. That's a criminal waste of resources. Maybe you can hang onto that Ned's shirt a little while longer. If it's destined to be turned into wiping cloths anyway, perhaps you could use it as a duster. A sweat-crusted duster full of rock memories.
On second thoughts, get that revolting thing out of here.

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