Those old clothes you have? Don’t dump it, recycle it

An estimated four per cent of the total municipal solid waste in Malaysia comes from textile waste. — AFP pic
An estimated four per cent of the total municipal solid waste in Malaysia comes from textile waste. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 — The fast fashion business model has resulted in the clothing industry undergoing a drastic transformation in the past decade.

It is estimated that between 80 and 100 billion pieces of clothing are produced each year, which is 13 times the global population.

The drawback to this lucrative industry is that it contributes to polluting the environment.

An estimated four per cent of the total municipal solid waste generated in Malaysia comes from textile waste — making the clothing industry the second largest polluter after oil and gas.

Daily, approximately two million kilogrammes of unwanted textiles are thrown into dumpsites, further aggravating the overflowing landfills across Malaysia.

The clothing industry is not only a profitable business but also one of the most major polluters. — Pexel.com pic
The clothing industry is not only a profitable business but also one of the most major polluters. — Pexel.com pic

This alarming rate is thought to be caused by lack of awareness among the people, as this is only municipal solid waste generated by households. 

Recognising the severity of this environmental issue, a group of young students from Taylor’s University formed a group last year called Green90s and joined hands with social enterprise Kloth Cares to raise awareness about textile waste recycling and also help keep fabrics out of landfills.

Additionally, the group in collaboration with marine mammal research and preservation organisation MareCet recently organised a community engagement recycling drive called “Dolphins Don’t Need Clothes” in Subang Jaya that collected 11,089kg of unwanted fabrics.

Some of the fabric waste collected during the two-day community engagement recycling drive. — Kloth Cares pic
Some of the fabric waste collected during the two-day community engagement recycling drive. — Kloth Cares pic

Green90s team leader Elicia Wee Yee Suan said the two-day recycling drive received an overwhelming response from not only the Subang Jaya community but also those from Kajang and Ampang.

“The core value of our group is simple, we want to prove to the society that millennials do care about environmental issues,” she said.

Their objective is to assist Kloth Cares on executing public relations campaigns and help the outfit to engage with broader audience through ground activities and social media platforms.

Founded in Feb 2017, Kloth Cares established a tripartite sustainable initiative with its founding partners, Life Line Clothing Malaysia and Selangor Youth Community in pursuit of giving new life to unwanted fabrics.

The movement is an initiative by Kloth Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

Its co-founder Nik Suzila Nik Hassan said the effort aims at keeping fabrics out of landfills in support of the circular economy.

“Our goal is to be amongst the pioneers that drive the urban mining movement to help foster a sustainable way of life for the community,” said Suzila

In 2016, the social enterprise kicked off its first fabric recycling movement themed “Keeping Fabrics out of Landfills”.

Following its success, the outfit then launched Kloth Cares 188 Fabric Recycling long-term campaign last year to collect 188,188kg of fabric waste in 18 months (until February 18, 2020).

“We hope all Malaysians support the initiative and help us collect over one million T-shirts throughout the campaign period,” said Suzila.

Team members from Kloth Cares and Green90s. — Kloth Cares pic
Team members from Kloth Cares and Green90s. — Kloth Cares pic

To date, Kloth Cares have gathered over 75,000kg of unwanted fabrics with the help of its sustainable partners including Guess Jeans, Lot 10 Shopping Centre, Prince Court Medical Centre, Allianz Malaysia, Sunway Putra Mall, Fraser & Neave and Sime Darby Plantation.

It has also placed over 80 bins across Klang Valley to encourage the public to dispose of their unwanted fabric and clothes.

Once the fabric waste is collected, they’ll end up at Life Line Clothing Malaysia to get a second life, depending on their condition and function.

According to Nik Suzila, the items will be processed and sorted into different categories.

“Wearable garments, shoes, bags and linen will be distributed to charity homes in Malaysia and exported to Africa and other third world countries for charity,” she added.

“Some will also be sold at retail outlets as second-hand clothing.”

The unwearable items, she said would be cut into rags and sold to industries as wiping cloths and refuse-derived fuel to power industrial generators.

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