Is Recycling Sustainable?

During my visit to the Greenshowroom in Berlin in January, I was very impressed by the event and so inspired to see so many involved and interested in the movement. In our daily lives, we rarely see so many people being so passionate about a cause. The event was full of interesting new fibre innovations, collaborations and technological advances, however, there was one thing that I was missing throughout the event, but especially when companies were talking about their circular design plans: the infrastructure for collecting the garments they’ve made. To many this might seem to be a secondary consideration, as it is not a very sexy topic – it is essentially waste, an afterlife of the garment. However, it is one of the most important topics we should be discussing now and we should pay more attention to it, not only considering fashion but any other consumables as well.

Is Recycling Sustainable? - byLiiL

RECYCLING INFRASTRUCTURE

Recycling is great, isn’t it? It makes us feel that we are on top of our contribution to reduce waste at the landfills and keep our consumption more sustainable. We separate bio-recycling from the plastic and paper and religiously empty them in their allotted bins, and we take our old clothes and other items to the charity shops to deal with our unwanted or worn items. But do we actually know where all of this ends up? Growing in Finland with its strict recycling rules, I always thought it is the responsibility of the country or the city to recycle those items. But it wasn’t until the recent upheaval of China not taking our recycled waste any longer that I saw the full picture.

Although, we might think that we recycle everything from food and plastic to clothes and electronics, the actual amount of produce that gets recycled is relatively small and most of it is shipped to countries such as China, India, Kenya and Niger to be recycled or disposed of. Globally only 20% of the end-of-use clothing is collected for recycling out of which around 70% is sent to African countries where they are sold to poor locals, the rest is turned into rags, insulations or furniture stuffing and will not be recyclable again (Fashion Revolution). Western countries, mostly the UK and the US, keep our western economies and consumerism up, by offering us the outlet of recycling, without really explaining what happens to our recyclables. When the recyclables are shipped to China we don’t have to think about it, and now we are in the mids of panic when all the recycling is stuck in our countries and we don’t have the infrastructure to handle it. There is so much recycled clothing that goes into African countries that they don’t want them any longer, in addition, it disrupts their economic growth. The technology we send to be recycled, on the other hand, is often sent to countries such as China, India, Nigeria or Ghana to be disassembled in hazardous conditions to retrieve any precious metals and then dumped on landfills that pollute the surrounding areas. (BBC & Techland Time)

Is Recycling Sustainable? - byLiiL

To battle the problem that the US and the UK especially face when other countries are not taking in their waste anymore, the US is planning to reduce support to those countries whereas the UK is trying to ban single-use plastic. For the UK it is a great start, however, there are many implications that they are not considering! Charging 5p for plastic bags and a push to use more canvas bags was a great start, but if the canvas bags are disposed of at the same speed as plastic bags were it is not solving the problem (The Atlantic). Now, in the UK they are planning on charging people for getting a takeaway cup from coffee shops. Again, a great idea, maybe it will force people to use reusable coffee cups. However, an increase in reusable coffee cups would most likely see an increase in them ending up on the landfill as well. I have 4 reusable coffee cups because most of them started leaking or broke and now I don’t know what to do with them! How recyclable are our reusable coffee cups? And where is the information what we should be doing with them after their end-of-life?

I was actually quite excited about recycled coffee cups that many independent coffee shops are using to serve their coffees in until I realised I don’t know where I can compost it or recycle it. We lack in proper infrastructures to recycle our waste efficiently and economically. Recycling is not made easy for consumers. With many types of plastics, it is difficult to understand what can be recycled and where, or how it should be treated before recycling. We have recycling bins at home, at Universities and in the lobbies of some bigger corporations, but what about the rest of the city where there are only regular bins? And who’s responsibility is it to make it all work? Recycling is expensive, it’s a business. It requires funds and resources to sort through the waste and send it forward to be reused in a new material if it is still possible to reuse it. Many of our products are not designed to be recycled, most companies don’t think the afterlife of the product, so they are made out of a combination of chemicals and materials, which are nearly impossible to separate. And many products such as paper have toxic colourings which will be recycled alongside the paper and therefore stay in the recycling loop.

Is Recycling Sustainable? - byLiiL

There used to be many UK companies that handled recycled clothing, however, most have either reduced in size or seized to exist, because it is cheaper to send it away than sort through it (BBC). When it comes to fashion, only pure natural fibres are compostable, and that is if all the metallic or plastic parts are taken off it and it is not dyed with toxic dyes, and when it is composted in the right conditions. However, in most cases, clothing is created by combining cotton and polyester for comfort and durability (some just because it is cheaper to produce it this way), which until recently were almost impossible to separate. There are some technological advances to this, but it is still in its early stages. (Recycling International) .

Whilst visiting the Greenshowroom I noticed how many companies were designing circular loops into their production. Ecoalf collects marine waste to recycle it into polyester, QMilk collects milk waste to recycle it into a fibre and there are many other examples from Econyl’s recycled nylon to Revive collecting waste coffee. That is absolutely amazing, we are getting rid of ocean waste (this might take a while) and innovating with other waste materials to reuse them, but what about those products and their end-of-life, will they be collected from the ocean as well? We can’t endlessly collect waste from the oceans, it is not economic or good for the environment. Instead, we should collect everything there is now and stop other waste ending up in the ocean. Some companies, such as H&M, are accepting used clothes, however, most of them are not making it easy for the customers.

Is Recycling Sustainable? - byLiiL

ALL IS NOT LOST

  • There is a new proposal in the UK to have a bottles and cans deposit that consumers will pay when buying drinks and will get back when bringing these for recycling. This is not a new idea as many countries are already using this system successfully. (BBC).
  • I read recently about a Cupclub, which is a service of reusable coffee cups for those who do not like to carry their reusable cups with them. Those coffee shops that take part in the Cupclub will have collection points for the cups after a customer has used them. I thought it is a great idea if many enough branches will take part. Similar type coffee shop wide scheme of reusable coffee cups is being used in Freiburg Germany.
  • The UK government has a scheme of a tax levy for businesses that do research and development into waste reduction and to tackle pollution. (Ethical Hour)

Is Recycling Sustainable? - byLiiL

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE

The never-ending question is who is responsible for creating the infrastructure and making it work. Is it every consumer’s responsibility to make sure every product and item they buy is recyclable or compostable and is being disposed of in the right way, or hoard the waste that they can’t recycle? Is it companies responsibility to produce products that are recyclable in an easy way, that do not pollute and are not wrapped in millions of layers of plastic, and come up with innovative ways to make it easier for the customer to dispose of their items? Or is it the government’s responsibility to reinforce the laws against pollution and create the infrastructure that will serve all the different requirements from regular waste to clothing and technology?

According to Fashion Revolution fanzine, France keeps the companies responsible for the products they make including the packaging. They ask the companies to pay an upfront fee for all their products and packaging that helps fund the collection and recycling infrastructure. I think it is a brilliant idea, but then again it is only one of the options. In the end, it should be all three that should be working to create the infrastructure and make sure that it is used. I often debate whether it is companies or the government that should create the infrastructure and would be interested in hearing your opinions about this as well! I often think it is the government responsibility, but then I see these beautiful minds creating business models to combat waste and I am amazed!

Is Recycling Sustainable? - byLiiL

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  • Buy less and buy smarter. Make sure what you are buying is what you need and will last you for years.
  • Keep recycling, we can’t have our waste in the landfills either.
  • Ask your local government representative to take action and check the 6 actions by Fashion Revolution that you can do.
  • Use your voice and be vocal about these issues and how they should be fixed.
  • I also recommend reading the Fashion Revolution fanzine and learning more about this topic!
  • If you are in Scotland check also the Zero Waste Scotland website, anywhere else, I am sure there are similar organisations in your area as well.

Pictures are from Usplash and Fashion Revolution.

Do you find it problematic to sustainably dispose of your waste? And who do you think should be responsible for making our recycling infrastructure work? Let me know in the comment box below, on Twitter or Instagram, I would really love to hear your opinions on the matter!

With love,

Lii

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Happy Favourites of the Week – Spring Time

Visiting Friends – We had a fun night with friends playing Cards Against Humanity with visiting friends. We hadn’t had laughs quite as good in a long time! It was an absolutely fun night!

Happy Favourites of the Week - Spring Time - byLiiL

Easter Weekend – Although, I was working on a couple of the days during the Easter break it was still amazingly relaxing weekend full of delicious food and chocolate.

New Deodorant – I absolutely love my deodorant from Fine, but with its price tag I am happy that I’ve found another one, closer to home that has a much better price tag for my wallet! Evolve beauty have recently come out with a deodorant which is lovely! It is moisturising and doesn’t have a strong scent, in addition, it actually works and it’s made out of all natural ingredients. What more could you want! I do warn though, it has bicarbonate of soda. I wasn’t sure if my armpits could handle it and that is why I haven’t tried most natural deodorants in the UK, but Evolve also have small sample packs which helps you try whether it is suitable for you!

Happy Favourites of the Week - Spring Time - byLiiL

Spring Flowers – Spring brings spring flowers and oh how I love looking at them and smelling them, it is just such a delight! Having fresh tulips in the house lifts your mood like nothing else! I can’t wait until mongolia and cherry trees start to flower in front of our house. I’ve seen them flowering elsewhere, but I live slightly higher up and it comes later here.

A Lifecycle of a T-shirt – This little Ted-ed clip was great at explaining the process a garment goes through and how it pollutes the world. Although, I would’ve loved if they added how sustainable fashion is different to show a comparison! Still, the clip is very informative and interesting, especially for people who do not work in the fashion industry.

I finally finished Women Who Run With The Wolves – It felt like a process going through this book. It is not an easy read, but then again it is not supposed to be. It is a book full of ancient women’s wisdom for empowering women to be themselves and understand the psychological cycles they go through at different times of their life. It taught me a lot and I really recommend everybody to read it!

Cat’s New Scratching Post – Actually it is their first proper scratching post. I wanted them to stop scratching our couch! So I finally got a small scratching post with a little toy in it and two places to sit and it is slowly gaining acceptance with the cats. One of them loves to scratch it and the other one loves another spot for him to sit and stare at us from.

Happy Favourites of the Week - Spring Time - byLiiL

How was your week? I would love to hear!

With love,

Lii

 

What Was I Up To In March 2018

March was a very cold month with some surprising and exciting snowy days in Glasgow, which made me think about how lovely my warm home is with heating and warm and dry covers. That’s when I wrote the post about why we should feel gratitude for having a home. Homelessness should be an issue that is addressed at all times, but especially when it is cold outside!

Why You Should Feel Gratitude For Having a Home - byLiiL

I loved the interview I did with Nadja, who is the founder of MAVOLU the webshop for sustainable fashion with innovative materials. She has great insight into material innovation and what sustainable fashion is all about! I also shared a bunch of articles that are helpful to a sustainable lifestyle. And finally, I share a big collection of sustainable news from February.

March also saw International Women’s Day and I got tickets to see Priscilla the musical as a present, which I enjoyed a lot! March also saw International Water Day and Earth Hour, two very important days to remember our connection to nature. I found it funny that the beginning of March saw such cold days and also very beautiful spring days. Finally, I shared beautiful Instagram pictures.

Happy Favourites of the Week - Something Good - byLiiL

The start of April is cold again and I hope we will get warmer and sunnier days soon! Sun definitely boosts my efficiency and energy, so come on sun!

How was your March?

With love,

Lii

 

Happy Favourites of the Week – Something Good

A gentleman in Moscow – I finally finished this book! I was very intrigued to read it, but from the beginning, I felt like the book was dragging. It was written in a very upbeat sense, but somehow I found it hard to get my head around the book. Until I got to the middle point and then I was hooked. This book is situated in Moscow at a time of revolution and tells a story of how people had to adapt to their new lives. Unlike many such books, this held the focus on beautiful relationships, beautiful memories and beautiful food.

Happy Favourites of the Week - Something Good - byLiiL

Starting Good Summit – I get to participate in a starting good virtual summit where I get to expand my knowledge on sustainability issues and how to work to make things better! There have already been so many great talks and inspiring ideas. Ernesto Sirolli’s Changing the way how to give aid was very passionate, but also with a great point! And Jan talking about the future of work was something everybody should listen to, to be prepared for the future of their careers. If you are interested in this go check them out: Starting Good Virtual Summit.

Fiance making dessert – This is a rare treat to get fiance to make me different desserts that we’ve not tried before. I am usually the one who makes desserts so it is great that I do not have to be doing it!

Happy Favourites of the Week - Something Good - byLiiL

Spring is on its way – It might not seem like spring is coming, but there have been a couple of nice sunny days, which are rare in Glasgow. Also, the ever-horrible/wonderful appearing spiders… they are back. I might be okay with them if the warmer days are on their way! We moved our clocks last night, and although today is a bit of a tired day I know that there is more sunlight every single day! I can’t wait for Easter next weekend!

Meeting new inspiring people – I am doing a certain course this week, where I’ve met several very inspiring people with different skills that I am very admirable of. It’s wonderful to see people who are different and can work so well together!

Happy Favourites of the Week - Something Good - byLiiL

World Water Day and Earth Hour – This week saw two important dates to connect us to our planet, one for the water and one for the earth. Both immensely important and I was really inspired by all the posts on Instagram and around the web to support this connectivity. We are all fighting to have a better place to live in and have a better place for our future generations so we should be working on this together!

I won a book – I am taking part in the Our Shared Shelf – book club and a couple of weeks ago got the notice that I won their last book club book, which I hadn’t yet read or acquired: Why I No Longer Talk About Race With White People. I am excited to read the book and about winning a small competition!

 

Happy Favourites of the Week - Something Good - byLiiL

The Best Coconut Oil – We often don’t even think whether the food we eat actually is sustainably produced. So I was really happy to find out that Reviews.com did a research into several coconut oil brands and their coconut oil production and checked which ones are actually produced sustainably. Luckily for readers who live in states, this review considers mainly USA brands. For the rest of you, I thought this was a great article to see how you can question what you put into and onto your body. How to figure out whether it is sustainably sourced and how to go about it. I would still love to learn a lot more about this topic but this was definitely a great start!

Happy Favourites of the Week - Something Good - byLiiL

 

How was your week? Let me know in the comment box below!

With love,

Lii

Interview With The Founder of MAVOLU – Material Revolution

Nadja, the founder of MAVOLU, and I go way back to our undergraduate studies where we both showed interest in sustainable fashion. This common interest was definitely a part of what kept us as friends ever since our University studies. I am happy to have a friend with whom I can discuss my interest in sustainable fashion and who is an inspiration to me. I can always count on her support and am every day impressed by her integrity and drive for what she wants to achieve. I wanted to share the interview with Nadja as she has some great points on sustainable issues and innovation currently and she has founded a great new platform for sustainability! I hope you will enjoy this interview and let me know if you want to read more of these kinds of posts in the future!

Interview With The Founder of MAVOLU - Material Revolution - byLiiL

Who are you? And how are you connected to sustainability?

My name is Nadja, I am from Germany and 28 years old. After completing my BA in ‘Fashion Business’ at Glasgow Caledonian University I moved to Berlin in order to study an MA course focussing on sustainability in fashion. My MA project was examining innovative and sustainable materials, in particular, peace silk, banana fibre and soy fibre. I went on a research trip to India in order to learn more about the production and sourcing processes of each fibre, and in addition to that, I designed a small capsule collection made from those materials. After finishing the MA course me and some other students decided to continue working together as re/GENERATE, focussing on collaborations and workshops that are aligned to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.  We also got the chance to show our MA projects as part of the ‘Fashion Sustain’ Conference during Berlin Fashion Week, which was very exciting! A small summary of all the projects can be found on our webpage.

What is MAVOLU?

Ever since I’ve started the MA course I’ve been somewhat obsessed with material innovation, especially because there is so much experimentation going on right now in terms of new and sustainable fibre options. But while I was doing the research for my thesis I realised that it is often quite difficult to gain access to clothing and accessories made from ground­breaking and innovative materials. While there are some designers that are already working with those materials, it is very time­consuming to actually find all of them. So I thought the easiest way to solve this problem was to create a marketplace specifically for products made from innovative materials. I, therefore, started an online platform that is currently covering eight different materials, with the intention to add more over time. In the online shop, you can find beautiful and unique products such as wallets made from banana fibre, dresses made from peace silk, and bags made from cork. In addition to that, MAVOLU wants to create a knowledge exchange in the field of sustainable textiles and fibre options, which is why I have added a material library that will show a short summary of each fibre. I have also recently started a blog where each material will be discussed in more depth and where I will introduce the different designers and brands who are behind all these beautiful products.

Where do you see the future of fashion and sustainability?

While material innovation is a big passion of mine, I am of course aware that the right material choice alone is not going to change the whole fashion industry. But I do believe that it makes a very big difference to choose a low­impact fibre or material at the very beginning of the supply chain, which will then have a positive impact on all other stages ­ for example, a material that is free from chemicals will cause less harm in terms of human toxicity for farmers, weavers, and of course also consumers. This can be as simple as choosing organic

cotton instead of conventional cotton, because its production requires a lot less water, chemicals and fertilisers.

What is the most interesting innovation in terms of materials so far?

I am a big fan of fibre production from agricultural residues, such as banana fibre and pineapple fibre. Banana fibre, for example, is derived from the pseudostem of the banana plant, which would naturally rot once the fruit has been harvested. The fibre is therefore entirely made from a by­product of the food industry and its cultivation does not require any additional resources. The same goes for pineapple fibre production: the fibres can be extracted from the leaves of the plant (again a by­product of the food industry) and can e.g. be turned into Piñatex, an innovative material created by Ananas Anam which is often used as a vegan and environmentally friendly alternative to leather.

 

What do you see as the biggest problem within material innovation?

I think for now a lot of the material innovation is still in the research stage. While fabrics made from Tencel, ramie and hemp have been around for some time now, others are not quite as developed and are therefore not used by many designers. That seems to be the main reason why it is currently still quite difficult to get your hands on items made from innovative and sustainable materials. But I also think that there is a huge interest in developing those materials further, as well as coming up with new alternative fibres. E.g. if you look at the winners of the Global Change Award in the past years then you will notice that at least one of them is focussing on some sort of ground­breaking fibre or material ­ be it from citrus waste, algae, or even cow dung. So over time, those materials will hopefully be used by more designers, and as a result, more people can gain access to it, offering them an alternative to mass­produced items made from unsustainable fibres.

And what do you see as the biggest problem within sustainable fashion?

I think that most of all, we need to start changing the current mindset in terms of value. We are too used to clothing being insanely cheap and therefore disposable. In fact, we are so used to cheap fashion that it has now become the norm, consequently making sustainable fashion appear ‘too expensive’. However, I think it is necessary that we re­value the labour that goes into each and every garment ­ starting with the fibre production, the spinning, the weaving, the sewing, the distribution. If you consider all those individual steps in the supply chain then suddenly sustainable fashion doesn’t seem quite so expensive ­ it’s just a realistic price for a realistic amount of work.

Interview With The Founder of MAVOLU - Material Revolution - byLiiL

Do you have any tips for people who want to be more sustainable in their fashion consumption?

Start small and don’t get demotivated! To be honest I often get demotivated myself, thinking that I can’t really make a difference compared to the bigger picture. But as consumers, we all have a choice, with every single purchase we make. And even if sustainable fashion is not within your budget then there are still plenty of other options, such as buying second­hand or renting your clothes (e.g. from ‘fashion libraries’ such as Kleiderei. All those seemingly small steps are contributing a lot towards a more sustainable future in fashion.

Interview With The Founder of MAVOLU - Material Revolution - byLiiL

 

I hope that interview got you more excited about material innovation. Now go check MAVOLU out and learn even more about innovative materials. And check her beautiful Instagram account as well!
If you have any additional questions to Nadja ask them in the comment box below!
Shop the products in the post:
With love,
Lii

6 Articles To Help You Be More Sustainable

How To Eat Sustainably (Without Going Vegan) – We’ve heard it all over that veganism is supposed to be the most sustainable diet and healthy for you as well. But let’s face it, everybody in the world will not become vegan no matter how much people keep talking about its benefits. For some people veganism just isn’t the best option. Not eating meat is a big step for being sustainable, especially when you leave out cow-meat, however, it is not the only consideration you should take when thinking about what you eat; how much water it takes to grow the food you eat, how many miles has it travelled etc. This article discusses other options which you can do to eat more sustainably whether you are vegan or not!

6 Articles To Help You Be More Sustainable - byLiiL

Conscious Consumerism Is A Lir. Here/s A Better Way To Help Save The World – We often think that just by buying better options, striving to recycle and reducing waste will sort out the climate change problem. However, even though our decisions can make a mark on more sustainable consumption habits, it doesn’t change the problem that is at its root. This article excellently points out what are the problems that we really should be tackling!

The Unexpected Way Your Fast Fashion Wardrobe Is Sabotaging Your Career – This post by Alden Wicker explained a lot to me! It explains how we have decision fatigue whilst providing a new point of view why our wardrobes should be more conscious!

6 Articles To Help You Be More Sustainable - byLiiL

Making Your Period More Ethical, Eustainable and Better For You –  A post by Quirky Queer explaining why we shouldn’t be using the supermarket hygiene products and what are the other options that are more sustainable and healthier for us. A great resource for any woman!

Eating Sustainably: What I Eat In A Day and Why I’m Not A Vegetarian – A post by world threads traveller about her eating habits. She brought a new point of why different diets are good and there is no one diet suitable for everybody, with a hint of history into her life, which brought a smile to my face!

Sustainable Pet Ownership: Ways To Reduce the Environmental Impact of Your Pets – Because your pets, like you, are part of the nature and if they could decide, I am sure they would like to be a positive force on the planet… well except my Ninja, who loves a warm spot so much she has an angry look on when the heating is not on…

6 Articles To Help You Be More Sustainable - byLiiL

 

Let me know your additional tips in the comment box below!

With love

Lii

Favourite Instagram Pictures of February

In February I liked a lot of empowering, sustainable related and feminist quotes, which can be quite visible in the pictures below. I loved pictures showing female empowerment! And then, as always, I loved pictures of plants and colour. But overall I loved pictures with interesting textures, beautiful colours and an ethereal mood. All of these accounts are absolutely beautiful, so go check them out!

 

What kind of pictures did you like in February?

With love,

Lii