The global production of clothing has gone from 50,000 million garments in 2000 to 100,000 million in 2015, according to a study by the Ellen McArthur Foundation. Its use, however, has been reduced half the time, according to the report Time Out for Fashion of Greenpeace. In Spain, each citizen spends 450 euros per year on average to renew their costumes and generate between 12 and 14 kilos of textile waste. Of them, 20% is recycled in a process that is complicated when natural and synthetic fibers are mixed in the garment making.
Click to find out some of the fabrics used in clothing
"If we had a shirt made 100% cotton or polyester, we would recycle it without any problem," says Gema Gómez, director of the Slow Fashion Next platform, which trains professionals in the sustainable fashion sector. However, polyester represents 60% of the materials used. "By putting it in the washing machine, it releases microplastics that end up in rivers and seas and from there they enter the food chain." From 2000 to 2016, the consumption of this synthetic fiber, which triples CO emissionstwo of cotton, has increased by 157%.
For fashion to be sustainable, natural dyes should be used instead of chemicals, water consumption should be reduced, and fibers grown without pesticides or herbicides, such as cotton or hemp, should be used. There are articles created from the cellulose of trees, "bags made with the remains of pineapple leaves, skirts that come from orange peels and shoes made with mushrooms," explains Gómez. And even sustainable swimwear made with econyl, a fabric made from plastic garbage collected from the sea.
What happens with recycled textiles
Caritas, the Human Foundation or the Spanish Association for Economic and Social Recovery (AERESS) have been managing textile waste for decades through agreements with town councils and other entities. They have a large network of urban containers and organize specific clothing collection campaigns. Some of the workers are people at risk of social exclusion: a perfect example of a circular economy.
Cáritas has 4,500 containers to collect used clothing. El Corte Inglés has joined the project with the installation of 41 points distributed throughout its centers. This is the process by which your garments return to the circle of sustainable fashion.
In 2017 AERESS managed 28,474 tons of textile material in Spain, with a reuse rate of 50%. The Human Foundation annually collects 18,000 tons of clothing and footwear, while Cáritas has distributed 4,500 containers throughout the country. The delivered garments are moved to classification and treatment plants. Some fabrics are used to make new clothing and the rest is donated to social services, second-hand stores or developing countries ", explains Raquel Haro, Communication Manager at AERESS.
What if I do not want to recycle?
Another option to give a second life to the garments is the exchange, the loan or the donation. They can also be transformed into new garments. In Bilbao there are creative recycling workshops managed by the association Truca Rec; in Vigo they are carried by La Canalla and in Madrid, Altrapo Lab. In the Barcelona markets of Sarrià, Poble-Sec or Sant Antoni, clothing is exchanged between individuals. And, of course, sustainable clothing brands are beginning to be increasingly present in stores and department stores.
Celia Ojeda, coordinator of the Consumer Area of Greenpace in Spain, points to another solution, which often goes unnoticed: ask if you really need to acquire a new garment. "The most sustainable pant is the one you already have in the closet. Use it a lot, fix it, transform it, "he says. "It is not enough just to talk about reducing toxic, recycling or circular economy; we must lower the pace of production and consumption, "he concludes.
Spanish designers such as Juanjo Oliva or Moisés Nieto have presented in recent years sustainable collections from recycled materials such as plastic. For Marina López, president of the Sustainable Fashion Association of Spain, the visibility is its weakest point. "Although they have a store on-line and they are present in sustainable fashion multi-brand spaces, they find it hard to enter the most conventional fashion circuits ".
It becomes necessary, in short, a change of model in the industry. To achieve this, the role of the consumer is fundamental: "If these react, distributors will have to change. Buying clothes has become a leisure activity, when before it was a necessity. This is how we are loading the planet, "he concludes.
This news, sponsored by The English Court, has been prepared by a collaborator of EL PAÍS.