Textile Waste in New Zealand

Over the past 30 years, fast fashion has increased the amount of waste coming from the fashion industry. Fast Fashion is the term used to describe the quick transition from catwalk to customer, with reduced cost and reduced quality products. These items are not designed to last longer than a few months and the best way to reduce the manufacturing cost is to make them with synthetic fabrics.

Of all the textiles manufactured each year:

  • 12% are lost during manufacturing in the form of cutting and production waste,
  • 75% are sent to landfill by consumers
  • 12% are put back in the system through donating or recycling
  • <1% are regenerated into new fibre for new clothes

Donating Clothing

The following national charitable organisations may accept clothing at their stores:

Please ensure clothing is clean. Disposing of inappropriate goods at charity stores is a huge cost to these organisations. If the textile or clothing is dirty or damaged, and especially if a synthetic fabric, dispose of it as waste to landfill.

Be wary of donating clothing to clothing bins as they are often sold by the tonne to retailers and very little goes to the charity advertised on the bin. It is much better to take donations directly to stores.

Textile recycling in New Zealand

Most textile recycling in New Zealand is carried out by Opportunity Shops, usually linked to churches or charities. Clothing that is suitable is put out for sale, or if not suitable the buttons and zips are removed for re-use. The remaining textiles are divided into natural and synthetic fibres, with natural fibres made into rags or art paper and sold to industry as cleaning cloths or can be composted, whilst synthetics are dumped to landfills - another good reason to shop for natural fibres!

Recycling wool in NZ

Terra Lana, a New Zealand manufacturer, uses wool recycled from carpet manufacturing, some new wool and polyester, to make a range of insulation products, including ceiling, wall and underfloor insulation, plumbing and acoustic insulation, weed mats and furniture-moving blankets.

Consumer Tips

Buy natural fibres where possible, keeping in mind that most synthetic fabrics have nowhere other than landfill to go at the end of their life. We are spoilt for choice of natural fabrics in New Zealand such as merino and possum wool. Purchase New Zealand made if you can as their products will likely have lower manufacturing and transport emissions.

Buy second hand. By purchasing second hand you can extent the life of a

 kids grow through clothes so fast

Babies’ clothes from earthlings are made from FairTrade certifed cotton, and Lola and Ben use merino wool and certified organic cotton.

Try organic bamboo or organic GOTS-certified cotton clothing made in New Zealand for babies and toddlers from greenbean, or  Greenfields Trading stocks children’s clothes made form Fairtrade certified organic cotton.

Children and parents love colourful clothes, but how much do you know about how and where they are made? Read a blog on environmental impacts of textiles and some possible responses

For materials and wool sources, try organic merino and organic cotton knitted and coloured in New Zealand by Belle and Beau or for homeware materials, haberdashery and children’s and adults’ fashions, try ecofabric.
The on-line retailer Well Made specialise in natural fabrics, in minimising waste and highlighting other values.

Environmental Effects

The environmental effects of textile fibre production are highly significant globally:

The logo or slogan may appeal, but where was the T-shirt or sweat shirt made, and of what material?

Clothing to die for – some facts and figures

  • Cotton comprises 45% of all fibre use globally.
  • Cotton is the most pesticide-intensive crop in the world
  • The pesticides that farmers use to protect textile fibres as they grow can harm non-pest wildlife,  contaminate other products and endanger the farm workers and their families.
  • Some of these chemicals typically remain in the fabric after finishing, and are released during the lifetime of the garments.
  • Bleaching and then dyeing - the resulting fabric carries more toxins.
  • Almost all polyester-cotton mixes (especially bed linen) and all easy care, crease resistant, permanent press cotton, are treated with toxic formaldehyde; also used for flameproofing nylon.
  • Nylon manufacture creates and releases nitrous oxide, a 'greenhouse gas' 300 times more potent at warming per molecule than carbon dioxide.
  • Fibres from synthetic fabric garments detach during washing and exit with the rinsing water. Many end up in the oceans where they are collected by filter-feeding animals, although they have no food value. This pollution is now detectable globally