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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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

 

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

Sustainable News of the Month – February 2018

Smartphones and Data Centres Harm The Environment –  A Sustainable issue where we wouldn’t even think of looking: “For every text message, for every phone call, every video you upload or download, there’s a data centre making this happen. Telecommunications networks and data centres consume a lot of energy to serve you and most data centres continue to be powered by electricity generated by fossil fuels. It’s the energy consumption we don’t see.”

Limited Scope of Corporate Sustainability Revealed – As consumers increasingly require more ethical and sustainable practices from the brands they consume, the brands invest in some level of sustainability in their supply chain. However, study shows that the reach of their sustainability falls short.

Sustainable News of the Month - February 2018- byLiiL

Soil Cannot Halt Climate Change – It’s implausible to treat crops and soil to absorb more carbon to halt climate change.

Free First-Of-Its-Kind App Enables Total Impact Modeling of Products – An app that helps any start-up and company to quickly design products with environmentalism and economics in mind. “The system immediately quantifies possible improvements across all performance attributes, such as the effects on compliance, costs and environment.”

How To Keep Computers Out Of Landfills and Recyclers Out Of Prisons – An article explaining why recycling computers and other electronics seem to be a problem.

Can Land-Based Fish Farms Promote Food Security – To not overfish from the oceans and to secure non-contaminated fish, are fish farms a sustainable consideration?

Sustainable News of the Month - February 2018- byLiiL

Arctic Spring Is Starting 16 Days Earlier Than A Decade Ago – This might not sound like a lot, but in a place where spring and summer are shorter than further south, it is a drastic change.

Jaguars Killed For Fangs To Supply Growing Chinese Medicine Trade – I can’t believe that I am still reading this kind of titles. I would’ve imagined that in a country that has as stringed control over beauty testing, there would be something done for the medical industry as well. It saddens me to see these beautiful animals killed when they are already on the brink of extinction, but it also saddens me to read that something has driven the local people to do this.

Should Cloning Bring Back Extinct Species – Do we want to visit the real Jurassic Park or perhaps help reduce the effect we’ve had on the wildlife in recent years?

Sustainable News of the Month - February 2018- byLiiL

FASHION AND SUSTAINABILITY

Why Green Consumerism Isn’t Taking Off – Nevertheless of people being sustainably conscious, as consumers seem that it is peer acceptable to be shopping for fast fashion they do not feel about it. The thrill of finding a bargain and having certain shopping behaviour, it is too much effort to find new brands that would be ethical, would fit, is the right style and the right price point.

Levi’s Cleans Up Denim Supply Chain With Automated Finishing Process – Levi has found an automated way to finish denim without as many chemicals. They are also planning to reduce chemical discharge by 2020 and hope to reuse water in the near future. In addition, they are planning to reduce textile waste. All of this sounds great and about time! But my question is; is it healthy for the people who are going to wearing the garments? And are they recompensating the employees who might have long-term problems from making their denim?

Digital Technology As A Driver Of Sustainable Innovation – Article explaining what are the technological innovations that help designers to have a more sustainable designing, sampling and production methods.

Is ‘Ethical Fashion’ Made With Deadstock Fabric Just Greenwashing? – Explaining how deadstock fabrics and mills who create them work.

Sustainable News of the Month - February 2018- byLiiL

EVERYTHING ABOUT THE WATER

Wastewater Treatment Plants Could Generate Electricity – There is another possibility for clean energy.

Stand-alone System To Produce Drinking Water By Means of Solar Energy – “Designed only for desalinating water, this is a sustainable, eco-friendly technology, as its energy is supplied by solar photovoltaic panels in a CO2-free process, thus not contributing to climate change.”

Water Filtration Breakthrough Using Metal-Organic Frameworks – A new innovation can separate ion and salt from the water.

Involving The Public In Water Policies Is Key To Successful Municipal Water Systems –  Article outlines how one study researched water quality and people’s concern for costs and shortages. How human behaviours can influence water policy in a city.

Sustainable News of the Month - February 2018- byLiiL

The 11 Cities Most Likely To Run Out Of Drinking Water – Like Cape Town – As the crisis in Cape Town is reported other cities watch it with fear of who will follow the suit.

Averting the Next Cape Town: Water Strategy Is A Shared Responsibility – Article examines what went wrong in Cape Town and what we can learn from it.

Sustainable News of the Month - February 2018- byLiiL

 

Share your sustainable news in the comment box below!

With love,

Lii

What Was I Up To In February 2018

February was a cold cold month when I’ve been just trying to keep warm and dreaming of warmer months to come. I had a small city trip to London to see a friend and was still so inspired by my visit to the greenshowroom that I’ve been sketching several posts about sustainability which still need a bit more finetuning before posting them. So stay tuned for that!

5 Article about - Is it Really Ethical? - byLiiL

The couple of posts that I did post about sustainability were the Sustainable News of January, The Ethical Jewellery and about Cred Jewellery and finally shared links to various posts discussing whether they think certain topics are ethical or not, such as is vegan leather sustainable.

Happy Favourites of the Week - Friends and Lilies - byLiiL

February is also a month of lovers with Valentine’s Day and I argued that it should be a day to celebrate all the love, not just lovers. I also enjoyed naps in the sunlight and reading great books, and I shared my favourite Instagram pictures of January.

Ethical Jewellery by Cred Jewellery - byLiiL

 

How was your February, I would love to hear about it!

With love,

Lii

5 Article about – Is it Really Ethical?

Is Faux Leather Really Better? – An article about which I have been wanting to write for a long time as well. Very interesting and important to understand! Vegan is not always better for the planet and the environment.

What 10 Ethical Writers Eat In A Day And Why I’m No Longer Vegan – A thing that I’ve been long pondering about, whether veganism is sustainable or more sustainable choice than a meat-eating diet. Leotie Lovely’s article is well researched and really doesn’t leave anything unsaid!

5 Article about - Is it Really Ethical? - byLiiL

I’ve Decided: Fur Is The Eco-Friendly Choice, And You Won’t Change My Mind – Ecocult released an article about how she finds that fur is more eco-friendly than faux-fur. She explains why and how she inherited a fur heirloom from her mother. It is a new point of view to what we are now commonly used to.

H&M Conscious Label Not So Conscious – This documentary done by journalists seeks to reveal the secrets of H&M and how they run their business. It is a good insight into how big brands can bend laws and benefit from everything.

5 Article about - Is it Really Ethical? - byLiiL

Is Social Good Marketing Just Another Form of Greenwashing? – Are the companies trying to do just a little better than the very exploitative companies, or are they really trying to make a change in the industry?

What Is Ethical Coffee And How To Find It? – Ethical Unicorn discusses the ethics of the Fairtrade certificate and other coffee certificates and explains how we can work with the knowledge.

5 Article about - Is it Really Ethical? - byLiiL

Do you have articles that discuss whether something is really ethical? Share them in the comment box below!

With love,

Lii