Fast fashion has been creating textile waste that clogs landfills for decades, but it's hard for consumers to break the habit of buying their wardrobe new. Finding sustainably produced clothing that's also affordable is a challenge for many, especially families with growing kids, or people who have jobs with specific clothing expectations. Recycling clothes is a challenge as well, as there are few places that can make use of old textiles, or have the process in place to do so. According to Newsweek, 84 percent of unwanted clothing ended up either in a landfill or an incinerator in 2016.
There are many who feel the only approach possible for reducing fashion waste is to make the recycling of materials a part of the production process, normalizing the reuse of fabric. A group in Italy called Associazione Tessile Riciclato Italiana, or the Italian Association of Recycled Textiles, is pushing for just that. Called A.S.T.R.I. for short, the organization focuses on recycling wool specifically, and promoting sustainability in production, Eluxe Magazine reports.
A.S.T.R.I president, Fabrizio Tesi, says it should be a process that fits right into the production of clothes. Fabric can be reused, and often is in all sorts of designs, just not on a mass-produced level.
“The textile industry has a circular economy in its DNA, and the time has come to tell the world and its legislators that we must find some new synergies to overcome the problems caused by waste,” he said.
The group is working on an innovative spinning process that can use wool fibers gleaned from other parts of the line. For example, fibers from combing sheep during their growth cycle, reusing rags and other materials that are generally cast away, and reassessing wasteful aspects of the process from supply to packaging.
The process involves cleaning the "waste" wool, tearing it into smaller fibers, and then spinning a yarn to be made into new clothing. A.S.T.R.I. claims that they use no chemicals during this process, and they support fair labor practices by only hiring expert craftsman who are paid for their knowledge and skill.
Keeping clothes out of landfills isn't just a space issue; there are often toxic chemicals in fabric and dyes that leach out into the ground where they're buried. It also takes considerably less energy to clean and refashion fibers than it does to produce them new.
A.S.T.R.I. also wants to spread the good word. They're placing informational texts in schools that illuminate the value of circular economies and how they can benefit the environment, as well as businesses. The hope is that they're planting a seed that will grow and show big retailers that sustainability in production is possible, if you just plan for it.