Unwanted clothing is gathering up in toxic waste sites, clogging waterways and smouldering in burn piles across the global south. What are fashion retailers doing about it?
Textile waste is an environmental catastrophe. Every second, the equivalent of a rubbish truck load of clothes is burnt or buried in landfill, says the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, and Defra says each year over 1.4m tonnes of unwanted clothes make their way into municipal waste in England alone, making up 5.5% of un-recycled waste in the country. That figure doesn’t include items that have been donated to charity shops, placed in recycling banks or given to clothing take-back schemes – many of which are not recycled or resold, but exported abroad.
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