Fashion waste: this is how long it takes your clothes to decompose


You know those old nylon tights you used to gym in back in the day? Chucking them in the bin for being smelly and stretched out of recognition involves taking 30 to 40 years of decomposition.

Not only that but as The Fashion Revolution horrifyingly notes on Instagram:

“In a landfill, the decomposing clothes release methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. Synthetic fabrics like polyester and lycra can take hundreds of years to biodegrade.”

And according to Down2Earthmaterials, other materials like leather takes about 25 to 40 years, thread between 3 to 4 months and cotton about 1 to 5 months. That's a lot of gas-emitting time we'd rather save our environment from, I'd say.

According to Upworthy, 95% of used textiles can actually be recycled or repurposed. So, to make it a rule, never toss your clothing.

Just because an item cannot be worn again as intended - say it's no longer fits you or is out of shape - doesn’t mean it has now been rendered useless. There are countless uses for old clothing.

To name a few: make a headband from an old top, a dog’s blanket from an overdue jersey, cleaning cloths from old tees, etc.

Buy less clothes and save water

Apparently most of us only wear new items of clothing about 5 times. 5 times! Fast fashion is fun but can be incredibly destructive to the environment.

And one of the things we rarely think about is how much water is used when our clothes are made. In light of Cape Town’s very real drought and impending crisis we simply must consider that making a single pair of jeans equals just under 7 000 litres of water according to this Savers report.

So not only are we filling our atmosphere with harmful greenhouse gases when we are over wearing that here-today, gone-tomorrow trendy item, but we are wasting tons of water in the process.

Here are a few ways to consider feeding both your love for things new and protecting the environment at the same time:

Clothing swap

A closet full of clothes, nothing to wear. Can you relate?

Read: I hosted a clothes swap - and took away much more than ‘new’ clothes

Do a swap with some friends and obtain some nice new outfits at zero cost.

Buy locally-made items

Rather invest in an item that you love that's been made locally. This means you'll wear the item more, it's quality will be leaps and bounds above that fast fashion item you bought for R79.99 plus you'll be supporting a local designer.

Repurpose and recycle

As mentioned above, 95% of used textiles can actually be recycled or repurposed. If you don't use old clothing in a new way like making cleaning cloths from them, then try to recycle them.

That means going to thrift shops to buy secondhand clothing and donating clothes to local charities.


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