10 Oct 2017

New ways with old clothes

From Afternoons, 1:25 pm on 10 October 2017

Overconsumption of clothing is a big waste issue in the world's major cities, with polyester contaminating waterways. But now a New Zealand company is doing something about it.

a pile of waste clothing

Photo: Public domain

We have a supply chain to build clothing and it's time we had a supply chain to deconstruct and reuse it, says Bernadette Casey, creative director of The Formary.

Casey was working in the textile industry, but unaware of sustainable textiles, when a friend asked her to research them for a book he was writing about climate change.

The research blew her away, she says.

"Our clothing is kind of on a one-way highway to landfill and it's still a useful product. There's no necessity for it to go directly there."

Charity clothing bins are worthwhile but not an ideal solution as only 30 percent of what goes into them stays onshore (and is sold through charity stores).

The majority of the clothing is sent to offshore to countries like Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Clothing and textiles should go into a circular system and be reused here in New Zealand, she says.

"There's a supply chain to build the clothing, then you need a supply chain to deconstruct it and reuse it."

New fibre-to-fibre recycling technology will soon allow pure polyester to be extruded and reused as pure polyester with no loss of quality.

But although polyester is useful for waterproofing outerwear, Casey is disturbed that the fashion industry is now viewing it as a more sustainable option.

Natural fabrics are always a much better consumer choice for the environment, she says.

The Formary leads The NZ Textile Reuse Programme, a collaboration with some of New Zealand corporations and organisations including Fonterra, Alsco NZ and Wellington City Council.