By Larraine Roulston:
By design, when everyone makes a fashion statement with the environment in mind, there will never be a need for clothing to become trash. With Americans sending 10.5 million tons of clothing to landfills every year, where they release methane, a contributor to climate change, it is well worth the incentive to manufacture more earth-friendly apparel. The Swiss company, Freitag, known for repurposing truck tarps into bags, has begun manufacturing biodegradable apparel that can be turned into compost. Using locally sourced and sustainable compostable fabrics, each piece of clothing will biodegrade within three months. The company calls this reincarnation a type of “technical recontextualization” that is a highly complex operation.
Freitag decided on this end goal in the manufacturing of its robust work clothing for warehouse and factory employees. It was not easy to find one plant-based fabric that would meet all the requirements of sustainable production, durability and compostability. Eventually, they settled on a blend of hemp, flax, and modal (from cellulose), and called their new textile F-abric. All production of F-abric takes place within a 2,500 mile radius of Zurich, Freitag’s headquarters. What also set F-abric apart is the low level of chemicals used in its cultivation and processing, which allows the Freitag F-abric to get certification for the Oeko-Tex ® standard. The company claims that once the screw-off buttons are removed, the F-abric jeans will break down in a commercial composting facility within a few months. F-abric’s chinos, long and short t-shirts, and work dresses are available only in Freitag’s European stores. Let us challenge sustainably oriented mainstream companies to take on this effort as well.
Sometimes clothes wear out beyond repair. Bathing suits in particular are not often passed down. Visionary couture and eco-luxury designer Linda Loudermilk debuted the world’s first compostable swimsuit at the HauteNatured swimwear show at Miami Swim Week. This inexpensive suit made from plant starch can break down without a trace in just under 180 days.
In 2013, the sportswear company Puma launched its first closed-loop collection of footwear, apparel and accessories that are either recyclable or biodegradable. The company said that the products in its new InCycle range have been designed to meet the certified requirements of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute – a nonprofit organization created to bring about a large scale transformation in the way things are made. This group has created a rigorous certification program that rates products against five sustainability factors: the use of environmentally safe and healthy materials, design for material reutilization including recycling and composting, renewable energy and management of carbon, water stewardship, and social fairness.
Approximately 93% of all textile waste diverted to recycling is successfully reclaimed, yet 85% of unwanted clothing goes directly to landfills. Instead of allowing this to happen, try some alternatives. Repair or revamp garments. Pass them on to friends. Or donate to organizations; if unsuitable to wear, they will be recycled. Repurpose fabrics into crafts. A biodegradable garment that cannot be revitalized in any way can be torn into rags and eventually tossed into a composter. Also, inquire whether your municipal green bin organics collection accepts textiles. Knitters and seamstresses can place small bits of wool, cotton, thread and felt into their backyard composters. As compost is known as “black gold,” composting biodegradable textiles is truly a rags to riches story.
Larraine authors the Pee Wee at Castle Compost series www.castlecompost.com