How fashion and beauty tackles waste

Fashion changes quickly, but as an unintended side effect, much of it is ending up on landfills. Over 300,000 tonnes of clothing end up on the landfill every year in the UK, and that’s not including all the accessories and make-up products that contribute to a great outfit. 

But our desire for fast fashion is taking its toll on the world. Wrap revealed in their study of the textiles industry that, between 2012 and 2016, the carbon footprint from clothing in the UK has increased from 24 million tonnes to 26.2 million tonnes of CO2. Meanwhile, in the beauty and make-up industry, 70 per cent of its waste comes from the pretty packaging that is really only made to sell the product visually! 

With the landfills overflowing what duty and responsibility does the fashion and beauty sector have to combat the problem? We’ve teamed up with Reconomy, your waste management experts and a leading caged tipper supplier that can help businesses deal with their waste responsibly, to look into the waste solutions for textiles. 

Feeding fabrics the good stuff! 

There have been a number of steps to bring greener processes to the sector. For example, Tree Hugger reported on a recent process that could tackle the initial carbon footprint caused by textile production. Making clothes uses up a lot of resources, such as water, fuel, and chemical dyes. Circular Systems is offering a solution to that — fibres made from food scraps. In fact, the initiative would solve two issues at once, by making textile production less wasteful and combating the food waste problem. Circular Systems also has a technology in place to use existing scraps of textiles and discarded clothing and recycle them into new fibres. This means the company addresses both the environmental impact at the beginning of a textile cycle, with its creation, and at the end of its life, avoiding the landfill. 

The new plastic of beauty

Plastic is so prevalent in the beauty and make-up industry due to its hygienic nature. Prior to its use, we relied on soaps in bar form, glass bottles, and tins. It’s only natural then that we’re seeing many brands return to these roots. 

A key example of this is LUSH, who have been leading the way with its plastic-free shampoo bars. These block-form shampoos are sold loose (or, you can buy a reusable tin to keep it in!) and foam up quickly in the shower. While they don’t produce the same level of lather as regular shampoo, they achieve the same level of cleanliness and smell fantastic. Plus, a single bar will last you for months! 

Other solutions are to use recycled plastic for new packaging whenever possible, or to source biodegradable alternatives. 

Advice for greener fashion 

There are so many ways to take a greener approach to the clothes you already have too. Wrap launched their own project to help the textiles industry deal with its wasteful nature, with the Love Your Clothes website. This website offers customers a series of helpful advice points, such as: 

  • Refashion and Upcycle — something of a lost art, it certainly needs to see a revival! Here, instead of buying new clothes, the website encourages people to look at their old clothes and find ways to alter or combine items to make new outfits. The best part of this is you end up with a totally unique item!
  • Buying clothes — tips on how to “buy smart”, with an emphasis on clothes that will last, hiring options, swapping stations, or buying second-hand. 
  • Care and Repair — this section gives some great lifehacks on how to look after your clothes to keep them living longer. It also advises on how to repair clothes to give them a new lease of life. 
  • Unwanted clothes — for clothes that don’t fit, that you’ve grown out of, or no longer need, sometimes upcycling isn’t an option. But that doesn’t mean you get to fling them away! Dispose of your clothes responsibly, with a range of different ways to sell, swap, or donate. 

Making use of exchange programmes

Stores often run exchange programmes for both clothes and beauty product packaging. A number of retail outlets have run exchange programmes in the past, where customers can make use of their local shops to drop off clothes for recycling. Sometimes, customers can even get discounts for doing so. 

Clothing retailer H&M offers one such service. With the promise to accept any brand in any condition, H&M notes that it was the first brand to do a full-scale clothing recycling program in-store. Customers can bring down their old, unwanted clothes in exchange for a H&M voucher. The service is also offered in their concept stores, at Monki and at & Other Stories. The old clothes are marked as rewear, reuse, or recycle. Meanwhile, LUSH offers money off when people bring back their cleaned and emptied tubs for recycling. 

When it comes to fashion and beauty waste, the industry is in dire need of a makeover. The fashion industry in particular moves so quickly, and it’s leaving a trail of quickly-discarded clothing in its wake. Businesses need to ensure they have a responsible waste management system in place, such as those provided by Reconomy, to ensure less waste hits the landfill.