Sundried recently ran a poll asking the public where they think their old clothing ends up when they throw it out. Is this something you've ever thought about? 25% of respondents admitted they've never thought about it. Here's what really happens to your old clothes when you throw them out.
What really happens to donated clothes?
According to the BBC, in the UK alone we throw out over a million tonnes of clothing every year. That's a lot of waste! We may not think of clothing as waste, but it ends up in landfill just like all the other rubbish we throw out and sits there for hundreds of years, contributing to the global pollution crisis. Understandably, a lot of people decide to donate their clothes to charity shops or clothes banks in order to prevent this waste and in the hopes their old clothes could potentially help the less fortunate. But what really happens to donated clothes?
British charity WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) estimates that over 70% of donated clothes worldwide get exported overseas in an expensive and polluting second-hand garment trade . According to figures released by the UN, Britain is the second largest exporter of second-hand clothing, after the USA. The UK exports over 351,000 tons of old clothes – with an export value of £380m – to countries like Poland, Pakistan, and Ghana.
What once started as donations end up as tradable goods.
Do clothes get recycled?
Textile and garment recycling is hugely on the rise as global interest in environmental consciousness increases. Clothes that are thrown out by everyday people become what is known as 'post-consumer' and these post-consumer textiles can have a huge value to those who know what to do with them.
When you throw out your clothing to be recycled, it will either be reusable or not reusable, depending on the condition it is in. If it is still in a wearable condition, it might be sold on to third world countries as outlined above. If it is in bad condition – ripped, stained, or otherwise damaged – it will be sorted into rags, scraps, and fibrous material which can be recycled, sometimes into new clothing.
Clothing that is sent to be recycled gets collected from the donation bins or shops and is processed at dedicated facilities. At these processing facilities, the recycled clothes are shredded, treated and then re-purposed. The material can be used for acoustic dampening materials, carpet padding, insulation, or turned into rags for the automobile industry.
Because the recycling process stretches and weakens the fibers, only a small percentage of post-consumer polyester can be used to make new clothing. H&M’s sustainability report for 2016 showed that only 0.7 percent of their fabrics were created from recycled materials.
Old clothing is processed and turned into padding, insulation, and rags. Only a tiny percentage is turned into new clothing.
How can you be more environmentally friendly?
One of the best ways to be environmentally friendly is not to buy too many new clothes each year and wear what you do own as much as possible before throwing it out. Avoid buying very cheap clothing as this is more likely to be mass-produced and poor quality, therefore lasting less time and being thrown out more readily. If you spend a little more on quality clothing, you're more likely to care for it and want to get as many wears out of it as possible.
At Sundried, all of our activewear is made with longevity in mind so that it can last as long as possible. Our clothing will retain its colour and shape wash after wash, wear after wear, so that you can keep it for years.
Sundried also has a range of biodegradable t-shirts which biodegrade in 3 short years when exposed to the anaerobic environment of landfill. This means that once you do throw out your t-shirt, you can be safe in the knowledge that it won't be polluting the planet for hundreds of years.
These fitness tops by Sundried are biodegradable
Another way to be more environmentally friendly is to buy clothing made from recycled raw materials like plastic bottles or coffee grounds. At Sundried, we offer two collections made from recycled materials which help to reduce waste and clean up the planet. Our Eco Core range is made from 100% recycled plastic bottles and the innovative fabric dries 200 times faster than cotton, meaning the wearer can stay dry and comfortable even during a sweaty workout. The fabric is also super soft and kind to the skin, making it perfect for activewear.
So next time you're thinking of buying new activewear, why not go for the eco-friendly choices and see how it can benefit you?
When is the last time you stopped to think about how sustainable your training and racing garments are? We often get sucked into the new trends and latest sporting technologies but neglect to consider where our clothes have come from. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to improve the sustainability of your workout wardrobe!
Buy less, wear more
A really simple but effective way to reduce your impact on the planet is to create a capsule wardrobe that is equipped for all your fitness needs. Previously, I have been guilty of hoarding copious amounts of activewear to such an extent that I don’t even know what I own anymore. By only purchasing what I need, I have created a clutter-free wardrobe that is absent from unnecessary impulse buys.
Buy sustainable activewear
Traditionally, activewear is manufactured from synthetic fabrics to ensure that they are lightweight, stretchy, and sweat wicking. Unfortunately, these ideal workout fabrics are far from environmentally-friendly. Nylon, polyester and spandex require huge amounts of energy to produce and release tiny toxic micro-particles into our water systems which harm aquatic life. The solution? Individuals need to be more sustainable with their activewear choices and look to brands like Sundried to source their kit.
Buy better quality clothes
Fast fashion culture is a very problematic movement in today’s society but luckily the public is wising up to the unethical nature of this ethos. If you can’t find an ethical alternative to a garment that you require, ensure it is of a high quality. Investing in a product that is going to be long-lasting will minimise your impact on the planet by enabling you to buy less.
Buy second-hand kit
Athletes might be less inclined to buy vintage sportswear in the fear of the kit arriving in poor condition. However, after conducting my own searches on online sites like eBay, I have discovered that this isn’t the case. By using the right search filters and doing your research, it is easy to find used items that are in excellent condition.
If you aren’t convinced by the prospect of second-hand clothing, then maybe the cost-saving benefit will sway your opinion. Last month I ordered a pair of unworn leggings from eBay for under £4 that would normally retail at around £30, and a nearly new tracksuit jacket for £10 that would normally retail at around £50. A pair of absolute bargains!
Sell your unwanted kit
Ethical disposal of your old activewear is a key element of sustainable sports fashion. A great way to discard of your clothing is to sell it on sites like eBay or Depop. If a product isn’t in good enough condition to sell, then ensure that it is recycled by sending it to a charity shop for textiles or taking it to a recycling centre.
Make your washing habits more sustainable
You can make your wardrobe eco-friendly by changing your washing habits. By washing your clothes at 10 degrees cooler, it will not only save electricity but prevent any damage occurring to your clothes, resulting in them lasting longer. Also consider investing in an eco-ball to replace your washing powders and tablets which contain harmful micro-plastics that are toxic to aquatic life.
Support local brands
Buy from local businesses to save on transport miles. Look to reuse the packaging that you receive with your purchases too and advocate brands which limit plastic use; Sundried uses lovely eco-friendly tote bags and drawstring sacks to package their items for delivery.
I hope you can all use some of these tips to make your activewear more sustainable. It’s important to understand that to create an ethical activewear wardrobe, the answer does not lie with purchasing more kit. Take a look through your current clothing and identify the items that are worth keeping, those that need selling on, and those which are ready to be recycled.
About the author: Laura Smith is an accomplished athlete and university graduate. She has been a Sundried ambassador since 2017.
It is now easier than ever to choose fair trade, sustainable clothing instead of opting for cheap, fast fashion which is bad for both the environment and the people in the production chain. We take a closer look at the best eco friendly products when buying sustainable clothing.
Biodegradable Fitness Tops
The t-shirt in the photo above looks pretty unremarkable, doesn't it? A quality white t-shirt which is stretchy, comfortable, and features performance technology such as sweat wicking and anti odour. Well, that's not so hard to find, right? What if I told you that the t-shirt in the photo is actually biodegradable, and instead of laying in landfill for the next century, it would decompose naturally in three short years? Pretty incredible!
The t-shirt in question is the Eco Tech women's fitness top by Sundried and is made from the world's first biodegradable polyamide yarn. In a world of fast fashion, we rarely think about where our clothes end up once we throw them out. Do they get recycled? Do they get given to the homeless? Not really. In fact, 85% of textil waste ends up in landfill where it will stay for hundreds of years, taking up space and hurting the environment.
Instead, why not invest in a technical, performance-enhance biodegradable fitness t-shirt such as the Sundried Eco Tech women's fitness top? It features some of the world's best performance qualities so is perfect for running, cycling, yoga, Pilates, gym workouts, and all number of sports.
Bamboo is a natural, organic raw material which is sustainable and perfect for clothing as well as accessories like gloves. Bamboo is an eco-friendly replacement for plastic as it is renewable and can be replenished quickly. Bamboo grows extremely quickly – some species up to a metre a day! – which means it's perfect for harvesting at high rates for turning into textiles and is easily renewable. When it comes to greenhouse emissions, bamboo minimises CO2 and generates up to 35% more oxygen than equivalent stands of trees.
There are now lots of different brands and companies who use bamboo as a raw material for their textiles, including Sundried. It has many advantages over cotton and hopefully will be used more widely as time goes on.
Organic workout clothes
When you think organic, chances are you think about food. Organic food is not treated with pesticides and organic meat, dairy and poultry comes from animals which have not been given growth hormones or antibiotics.
Organic textiles are clothing made from materials raised in or grown in compliance with organic agricultural standards. Organic clothing may be composed of materials like cotton or jute. Sundried's yoga mat is made from organic jute fibre which is a vegetable fibre similar to hemp or flax. Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibres, second only to cotton in the amount produced and variety of uses. This means it is an excellent choice for textiles and products like the Sundried yoga mat as well as products like yoga clothes.
Sophie Kennedy is a Personal Trainer and Gym Manager with pre and postnatal qualifications. She loves endurance events having competed in numerous triathlon, marathon and ultra events. Sophie tells us about the Sundried products she couldn't live without right now.
Sundried Solaro Women's Leggings
I have never owned a pair of leggings that feel as amazing as these and give such a wonderful flattering shape. I bought these high waisted leggings having recently had a child and I feel supported and confident in them. The material and shape ensure there is no rubbing and they stay exactly where they should be through all exercise. Complete freedom of movement for full body gym workouts, dynamic movements, running, yoga and climbing. The quality can't be ignored; these leggings will last you a lifetime. If you are looking for comfort, flexibility, durability and a product with the planet in mind, these leggings are for you.
Sundried Women's Knit Shoes
These are hands down the most comfortable shoes I've ever owned. Their smart look means I can wear them for walking with the pram in casual wear or out running geared up in other Sundried attire. They are so easy to slip on and off whilst feeling totally secure. These shoes are a perfect all-rounder: light on my feet, durable, breathable, attractive, and ideal for indoors, outdoors, casual wear and sport-specific.
My other go-to ethical products
The most sustainable way to shop is to not shop at all. I don't buy unnecessary products and now all my sportswear is bought from Sundried. I love the range, which is always growing, and it makes for less guilty shopping.
The same goes for energy gels, drinks and snacks. I make my own to reduce packaging, shipping, energy demands through manufacturing and also cost to me. Plant-based whole-food fuel is better for me and the environment.
About the author: Sophie Kennedy is a Sundried ambassador.
Blue Planet II is arguably the most popular show on British television, racking up 17 million viewers in 2017 and beating both the X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing in the ratings war. What better medium, then, to teach the nation about the critical problem our planet faces when it comes to plastic pollution. The program showed how plastic is polluting our oceans and affecting our wildlife. It was so harrowing in fact that environment secretary Michael Gove said he was 'haunted' by it and has come up with an action plan to promote wider recycling and reduce waste.
You may be shocked to learn that less than 50% of the 480 billion plastic bottles sold in 2016 were collected for recycling. This means that in excess of 240 billion plastic bottles became plastic waste and began polluting our already fragile ecosystem. This is a global problem on an enormous scale and is causing irreversible damage to our planet.
The good news is that there are ways to combat this pollution epidemic and there are things you can do on a personal level to help. Companies like Sundried are turning this waste into treasure by recycling the plastic bottles and giving them a new lease of life. With a sportswear range made from 100% recycled plastic bottles, they are helping to clean up the global excess of plastic bottles which would otherwise take thousands or even millions of years to decompose naturally. By recycling plastic and turning it into useful products like sportswear, brands like Sundried are not only reducing plastic waste but are also reducing harmful emissions and water waste used to create new textiles.
Sundried also work with charities like Surfers Against Sewage who undertake the biggest and most impactful plastic clean ups on beaches across the UK. Their Big Spring Beach Clean helped to remove an enormous 55 tonnes of plastic waste in 2016. You can help by volunteering to help clean up your local beach, or find other charities who may do work closer to home for you. There are lots of ways we can all help this global issue and help to make our planet a better place to live for everyone.