Textiles: Environmental Impact and Recycling

Updated: Nov 22, 2019

Textiles in Landfills

With the increase in textiles economically, the result has since been an increase in waste. This waste unfortunately has a grave effect on the environment, as used textiles take up 85 percent of national landfills in the United States alone. When sitting in landfills, synthetic textiles, such as nylon and polyester, can release toxic substances into groundwater and surrounding soil. Landfills lack the oxygen needed for organic materials to break down, so when clothing does end up in a landfill, it decomposes through anaerobic digestion. This process results in the emission of greenhouse gases that is largely uncontrolled in landfills, which ends up escaping into the atmosphere, accelerating climate change.


Environmental Impact of the Textile & Fashion Industry in Hong Kong

The problem of textile waste is especially prominent here in Hong Kong. A 2017 independent survey of 1,000 HongKongers found that four in 10 people have thrown clothing away after only wearing it once. This means that many pieces of clothing made for long-term use are worn for a shorter amount of time and end up in landfills. Hong Kong has already cycled through 13 landfill sites, which are now being re-purposed, with just three sites remaining open. With the rate of waste generation in Hong Kong, especially with textiles, it will only be a matter of a few years before those too begin to overflow.


The Current Call to Action on Reducing Negative Impact from Textile & Fashion Industry

Since 2011, Greenpeace has been calling on major brands to eliminate the harmful chemicals from their products that can be released in landfills through their Detox commitments. In addition, Greenpeace stresses that the over-consumption of textiles is an even larger problem that must be tackled in order to reduce the environmental impact. Lastly, they call for a larger and more cohesive recycling programs of synthetic textiles. Check out our blog later this week to find out what current recycling and climate change programs are being set in place around the world.



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