Choose clothing wisely

Op shops: Finding a a bargain in an op shop is a better feeling than buying cheap fast fashion. Better still, try to repurpose what you have.
Op shops: Finding a a bargain in an op shop is a better feeling than buying cheap fast fashion. Better still, try to repurpose what you have.

Did you just spend the weekend working through your wardrobe? Preparing a bag for charity full of the clothes you didn’t wear in winter and thinking about what you need for summer?

Before you hit the shops, consider PlanetArk’s estimation that the fashion industry produces 100 billion new items of clothing every year, with the majority made from virgin resources. And three out of five of those items wind up in landfill within 12 months.

Claire Bell, Senior Recycling Programs Coordinator at Planet Ark, said we need to move past the idea that if you give something to charity then its OK to stock your wardrobe with new clothes.

“We need a shift in personal responsibility in our consumption. Choose good quality clothes that will last: not just the fashion of the moment but classically made clothing that will last for a few seasons.

“Also think about who are you supporting and where is your dollar going? Is it Australian made? What resources were used to make it?” Ms Bell said the online ethical fashion guide can help you discover your favourite shop’s sustainability goals, fair work practices, and sustainable resource use.

“The other thing you can do is think about buying second hand. The aim is to keep the item in circulation for as long as possible before it ends up in landfill,” she said.

“If you need something for a special occasion, rent or borrow. Have a swap party with your friends. Try ebay or gumtree or one of your community’s pay it forward sites. And if you have to hit the shops, think about your purchasing: write a list before you go, and avoid impulse shopping when something is on sale.

”Finding a good quality clothing in an op shop, something that would have been a couple of hundred dollars new and you now get it for $30 – that’s a better feeling than buying a couple of new tops for $20,” Ms Bell said.

Only take clothes that are good enough to be sold to a charity store. Charities spend a lot of money sending rubbish to landfill, not to mention the cost on the planet. 

Consider giving good quality work wear to Dress For Success and Fitted For Work, programs that help women experiencing disadvantage to find work and keep it by providing free professional attire.

There are a few options for unsaleable clothing:

  • Ask your charity if they sell unusable clothing for recycling into industrial rags. The material needs to be clean, not denim and at least 400mm square (which generally rules out children’s clothes).
  • H&M has a garment collection program for any clothing or textiles. 
  • Natural fibre can be used for weed matting and pure wool will disintegrate in the compost.
  • Towels and bedding are often needed by animal shelters or vets.

You may even be able to repurpose your clothing – cut jeans into shorts, or make a draught stopper or beach bag. Get creative and help reduce fast fashion waste.