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Will that be next season’s landfill contribution?

December 9, 2019 Will that be next season’s landfill contribution?

Guest post by Lillian Nakamura Maguire – Printed in the Whitehorse Star December 6, 2019

 

What’s the latest fashion this year? Colour trends? Skinny pants? Straight legs? Wide collars? No collars? Loose or tight fitting tops? It’s a clothing treadmill! Mountains of clothing being cheaply produced, used for a short time and thrown away!

I grew up in a large family with six siblings. It was a one-­income family, until the older kids were able to earn some of their own money for clothing or other special items they wanted. I have a photo of one of my older sisters at about 4 years old, wearing a new melton wool jacket with embroidered flowers down the front border and a matching felt hat. As evidenced in family photos that followed, the jacket and hat were handed down to me when I turned 4, and then later to my youngest brothers. By that time the jacket was pretty tatty looking and was worn for playwear. We never thought of it as a hand-­me-­down. My mother definitely got full mileage from that jacket and it was made to last.

What a contrast to today. In North America, consumers are buying – and getting rid of – five times as much clothing as we did 25 year ago, reports Elizabeth Cline in her book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion (Portfolio, 2013).

Overdressed explores the costs of cheap fashion that aren’t seen in the price tag.

 

It’s hard to believe how much clothing and other materials are donated to the local free stores operated by some of the Transfer Stations around Whitehorse.

For those of you not familiar with the lingo…”Transfer Station” really means garbage collection/dumping site located in areas near Whitehorse. I would prefer to call it a waste management, reuse and recycling centre…but unfortunately in most, it mainly serves as a collection point for all of our unwanted items.

Ideally some of these items are sorted so that they can be salvaged and reused or repurposed. Our local Transfer Station has recently been changed, so that construction, metals and other materials are dumped over an embankment or in piles, not easily accessible for salvaging.

Recently I’ve been volunteering at the free store at the Transfer Station near my rural home. I have been amazed, at times discouraged by the amount of clothing that arrives weekly. Volunteers attempt to keep the space organized and tidy, and regularly sort and get rid of the clothing that isn’t usable or in good condition. Usually this amounts to about seven or eight garbage bags a week. Most of this clothing is taken to Raven Recycling to be packaged and sent south for the textiles. But there are generally two or more bags of clothing that end up in the garbage bin.

Clothing banks at Raven Recycling accept any unusable clothing or linen items. Ripped or stained items are acceptable as long as they are washed and dried. This material is sent south for resale and recycling. (Photo: Raven Recycling)

 

Adam Minter in his book Secondhand says “Your average thrift store in the United States only sells about one-­third of the stuff that ends up on its shelves. The rest of the stuff ends up somewhere else.”

On a positive note, many people visit the free store and pick up some very good clothing or linens that get a second life. People also pick up household items, books, CDs and toys.

This is the season of glitz and goodies, wrappings and plastic. At the risk of sounding like the Grinch… I hope that during this holiday season, you’ll think twice before you select that piece of clothing as a gift or for yourself. Will it be next season’s landfill contribution?

Can you be creative in ways to reduce your waste? Have you shopped at some of the clothing consignment or thrift stores? Lots of great fashion finds there. I just bought some great used books that will go into some Christmas stockings.

Minter says “if you want to reduce the environmental impact of your consumption, the best way to do that is to not manufacture more stuff. In that sense, the best thing you can do is not buy more stuff.”

I’m trying to follow his advice and make sure that the Christmas stockings don’t turn into very full Santa sacks!

Happy Holidays – here’s hoping for a green holiday season… environmentally green that is.

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