Friday, 18 November 2016

You Can't Compost Clothing

A fascinating article in Magnifeco takes a stern line over an innocuous term - biodegradable. It turns out that the idea of natural materials easily breaking down when returned to the environment is not always the case.

A prime example is that of ancient relics, such as a 5,500 year-old shoe found in Armenia in 2010. Made from leather and stuffed with grass, the item is completely organic. Yet here it is, millennia after it was made, still recognisable as a man-made item. They knew how to make 'em to last in those days.

When it comes to landfill, things get even more complex. They are specifically designed to keep out the air, water and bacteria that are conducive to biodegradability. In short, it's a great way to stop the process in its tracks. Which means that no matter what your rubbish is made of, in landfill it will stay in good condition for many hundreds of years. Sounds counterintuitive, right? But 'entombing' your trash keeps some of the nasty toxic byproducts of decomposition, a delightful cocktail that scientists call 'leachate', out of groundwater. Everything stays in suspended animation. Safe, but a huge waste of valuable land resources.

In short, throwing away clothing is a sure way to keep it in the ecosystem for longer. Always consider recycling or donating, and let your charity of choice decide the best way forward for your unwanted garms. And don't forget, if you follow the Pier mantra of Buy Less, Spend More, Choose Wisely, then you'll be hitting the recycling bins less often anyway.

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