You may have heard of the phrase, ‘the Circular Economy’ and (if you’re anything like me) thought it sounded intriguing but were a little hazy on what exactly it means.
This week I set out to find out more about the circular economy, what it is, and how it relates to fashion and the clothes we wear.
What is the Circular Economy?
CirculEire is a semi-State organisation that aims to further a transition towards a Circular Economy in Ireland. CirculEire explain the Circular Economy as something that, “stems from the realisation that Earth is a finite system constrained by planetary boundaries. Ultimately in nature the concept of waste does not exist – everything is transformed into a resource that can be utilised. The Circular Economy aims to keep materials, components, and products in-use in the economy for as long as possible.”
Key aspects of the Circular Economy are recycling, repairing, sharing use, and reusing. So if you’ve ever donated or shopped in a charity shop, gifted an old item of your clothing to a friend, or repaired something, then you’ve participated in the Circular Economy.
Ireland and Fashion
Re-dress.ie estimates that 225,000 tonnes of textiles are disposed of in Ireland each year. This volume of fabric being thrown away comes at a huge cost to the environment when you take into consideration the manufacturing costs that went into the original creation, and then the cost of disposing of the fabric that has been thrown away along with household rubbish. Many fabrics are reusable, or repairable and for those that aren’t they can be recycled. Most charity shops will accept any fabric, no matter what condition it is in. The fabric that is in poor condition is sold on to fabric recyclers.
Before throwing away textiles, consider if it can be repurposed. Can it be cut up to make cleaning cloths? Stuffed into a large pillowcase to make a dog’s bed? Plaited and twisted to make a rag rug? The internet has ideas for re-purposing for people of all skill sets.
Shoe repair shops can work wonders on old shoes and handbags. Ask around to find out if you have a friend with a sewing machine who can help you repair damaged textiles. Spend some time with your own or someone else’s Granny and ask them to teach you how to darn socks or mend a tear. If you already know how, teach the children in your life. Make it a monthly family event perhaps, repairing or re-purposing whatever has been damaged.
Sharing Use and Reusing
There are lots of ways to share use, from lending a dress to a friend to making money from your clothing. Donegal-based business ‘Rent My Wardrobe’ offers an online space to rent designer clothing for a small fee, or to upload your own clothing and rent it out to others. As well as sharing use of clothing and accessories, reusing items also contributes to the Circular Economy. Upcycling clothing is a great example of reusing. Many dressmakers are excellent at having the creative vision and the know-how to modernise out-of-date clothing. There are millions of ideas online for upcycling so if you have an item of clothing that you think needs a re-haul Google the kind of garment it is and the words upcycle ideas and you’ll have no end of inspiration.
While the words, reuse and re-purpose may not sound fun, some of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on have involved creating something new, different, and more joyful from something I already owned but had grown tired of. Use your creativity, have fun, and help save the planet.
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