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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Sustainable News Of The Month – October 2017

Could Kelp Be The Future Of Sustainable Fashion – A group of scientists and textile designers have been developing a substitute for oil-based textiles (polyester and acrylic e.g.) using kelp. An absolutely amazing idea if it can be used in a similar way and if it is as durable!

Easyjet Could Soon Be Flying Fuel-Free – It is about time airlines start to think about changing their fuel-engines on something more eco-efficient. Although this doesn’t fix all the problems that aviation has on our planet, it is a start!

Sustainable New Of The Month - October 2017 - byLiiL

Chocolate Production Linked To Increased Deforestation in Poor Nations – Although, previously it was thought that the production of chocolate is not as damaging to the environment, the growing demand for chocolate with a reduced price has demanded change in the cultivation strategies, which are less sustainable for the environment.

Warming Sees Could Lead To 70 Percent Increase In Hurricane-Related Financial Loss – According to the researchers sponsored by the United Nations have issued a periodic report that believes the financial losses due to hurricanes will increase exponentially.

New Conservation Method Empowers Indigenous People – This very fascinating article discusses how we do not need to change the way indigenous people live, as “Indigenous communities have not only established a high quality of life, but have found ways to manage their natural resources sustainably through traditional hunting, fishing, and small-scale agriculture.”

What Soot-Covered, Hundred-Year-Old Birds Can Tell Us About Saving The Environment – Researchers have been investigating Horned Larks and their colouring to tell how much black carbon is still in the air.

Sustainable New Of The Month - October 2017 - byLiiL

Olive Mill Wastewater Transformed: From Pollutant To BioFertilizer, Biofuel – Making waste into something useful!!

HSBC Pledges $100 Billion To Tackle Climate Change – HSBC unveiled 5 point plan; from financing available sustainability projects, discontinuing financing of thermal-coal and planning to source all it’s electricity from renewable sources.

150 Companies, NGOs Call For Global Ban On Oxo-Degradable Plastic Packaging – Recent research has pinpointed that it is the oxo-degradable plastic that is contributing to the growing microplastic problem. Oxo-degradable plastic was previously believed to be the solution to the plastic waste problem.

Canopy Releases Viscose Producer Progress On Deforestation-Free Supply Chains – Canopy has been the go-to NGO to turn to when companies want to access information on viscose and rayon producers and their pledge to reduce deforestation.

Sustainable New Of The Month - October 2017 - byLiiL

Digitizing Leftover Garment Data Could Unlock Billions For Fashion Industry – Brands are spilling on average 25 percent of its resources when producing fashion because of the lack of adequate data input.

Can Upcycling Really Help The Oceans? – Although upcycling helps with the current plastic waste in the oceans, it is not the best solution and there is a need for saving the oceans in other ways. Excellent article explaining what actually happens to plastics when they enter waterways or how they can be upcycled.

Marimekko To Help Commercialise Spinnova’s Wood-Based Textiles – Finnish based textile company has developed new wood-based textile which doesn’t use chemicals processing the fibre and Marimekko is pledged to help the company to commercialise the fibre whilst acting on their pledge to produce their fashion more sustainably.

Recycling Mysteries: Brick – What is brick made off, why should it be recycled and how to recycle it.

What Happens To Airplanes No Longer Fit To Fly? – This article is excellent to understand what happens to airplanes after their useful life.

Sustainable New Of The Month - October 2017 - byLiiL

 

If you have read any other interesting articles on sustainability share them in the comment box below!

With love,

Lii

 

What I Was Up To In June

I can’t believe June is already over! This has been a month of reflection for me. I’ve been working more from home and being in my solitude really makes me think! I can influence what I think about with podcasts that I listen while I work or with articles that I read on my free time, however, reading and listening to all the challenges we face with making the planet to be a better place for all and learning about oppression to so many different groups of people can often make me a bit sad before it pushes me into action.

Straws - Eco-Friendly or Healthy?

Due to the reflection, I wrote more about what was going on in my head such as are summer bucket lists necessary and can you fake body confidence. Especially the latter one is a topic that I don’t even like to talk about to my close group of people, but something that I think about and struggle with often. Don’t you think that writing things down just makes more space and sense in your head? Unlike speaking about things, when I write I really dig deep into why I am feeling a certain way, talking is not as easy.

Inspiration of the Month - Fight and Thirst for Education - byLiiL

This month I have also been really tapping into sustainability in general. It’s quite unbelievable how many layers such topic can have. In June I wrote about Honest Rosie – a capsule wardrobe, I shared articles on sustainability and problems with charities, I shared an amazing recycling website Earth 911, I wrote about the sustainability of straws and OneSqin – organic tampons and skincare, and education for girls. Talking about education, which was my inspiration of the month after reading ‘I Am Malala’, I’ve been educating myself on photoshop, start-ups, sustainability and feminism. I couldn’t be more excited and I feel I don’t have enough time for all of my interests!

Uncovering The Secrets Behind Fashion Sizing - byLiiL

This month I started a new thread of posts about fashion and some sustainability issues with it. The first post was about fashion sizing, more or less to explain why we struggle with finding garments that fit us, but I will be tapping into more sustainable topics in fashion soon as well. In addition, I shared my favourite Insta pics from May and how I love pink evening skies.

I still don’t know what July will be like, most likely quite similar to June, as all my summery plans are for August. But you never know what opportunities reveal themselves and I plan to live in the moment!

 

What did you do in June? And what are your plans for July?

With love,

Lii

Happy Favourites of the Week – Midsummers Night

Fine Deodorant – My friend gave me a sample of this brands vetiver and geranium natural deodorant and it is the best that I have tried! The scent is nice, it lasted me with one application to the next shower (except for a tough and sweaty yoga class but I didn’t expect it to) and the best thing, it is aluminium free! Now I just need to acquire the full sized one, unfortunately, they are pretty pricey.

Happy Favourites of the Week - Midsummers Night - byLiiL

Wonder Woman – We finally went to see wonder woman to the cinema, after planning for it for about two weeks. I liked the “girl power” message of the movie and how real and awful they made the war seem, although it also made me very sad. This movie made me consider whether I should change blogging about feminism solely! There is a wonder woman in every one of us!

Maisoap Scrub – This is a bunch of lovely soap in an organdie type bag, which when used under water cleans and scrubs gently. I thought the idea was genius although doesn’t provide a harsh scrub, just a gentle one. The company and product information are in German and this is not one of their usual products, so I am not sure if it is supposed to be a scrub or just a way of using all the rest of the soap bits, but still genius!

Happy Favourites of the Week - Midsummers Night - byLiiL

Earth 911 – I stumbled onto this website when I was researching the recycling of disposable straws and I can’t believe I never knew about it! It is a website where you can enter the item that you want to recycle and where you live and it will tell you whether it can be recycled and where! (and learned that where I live I cannot recycle disposable straws) In addition, it has a lot of tips for sustainable living and information on the development within sustainability with articles and videos.

Midsummer night fun with friends – Midsummer night does not seem to be a big thing in the UK or the USA, but it is big in the Nordic countries. So to keep up with the traditions we came together with some of our friends, made way too much food and had fun drinking and playing trivia. I came up with a new potato salad recipe, which was delicious! And thankfully all the food was consumed in the following days, so there was no waste. It was a fun night full of laughter and we stayed up way too late so waking up the next morning was a challenge, but definitely worth it!

Happy Favourites of the Week - Midsummers Night - byLiiL

The Heart Goes Last – After reading a book that I had been waiting for ages to read and realising that it wasn’t quite as interesting to me I decided next to read something that I know I’ll enjoy. Well, when reading Margaret Atwood enjoy is not the right word, being intrigued, inspired and shaken would be closer to the truth. I have not finished this book yet, but can’t seem to be able to put the book down.

Dharma and Greg – This late 90s early 00s show is one of my favourites to watch again and again and every time I seem to get something new out of it. This time I am so inspired by how open and herself Dharma is and how she is not afraid to be a complete opposite from her husband and the in-laws and stays true to herself. The show introduces sustainability, oppression and what would be called weird to the Western culture, although in a comical way.

Happy Favourites of the Week - Midsummers Night - byLiiL

Laugh of the week – It was a cold and wet day (yes I know it is June) and I was walking home, thankfully during a break in the rain showers. A woman was hurrying towards my direction with her daughter. Suddenly the little girl saw a small puddle, decided to stop and started playing with her white and shiny little pony in it. The mother had walked way past me when she noticed that her daughter wasn’t next to her and started shouting something. But the joy in the little girl’s eyes when she got to play in that puddle reminded me of my childhood. It definitely put a smile on my face for the rest of the day!

 

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

With love,

Lii

Straws – Eco-Friendly or Healthy?

Who doesn’t like drinking liquids with straws? They’re fun, nostalgic, have great colours and shapes, and make sure you don’t spill anything on your clothes. So what’s not to like? It seems from health and environmental perspective, many things.

Straws - Eco-Friendly or Healthy?

Unlike the common misconception, drinking with straws is not good for your teeth, some even would argue it’s worse that without them because the liquid shoots straight at them. Think about it, when you drink with a straw do you feel the liquid around your teeth? I do! Sucking motion we do with straws is similar to that of smokers when they smoke and has similar consequence – wrinkles around the mouth. In addition, you might wonder why you feel gassy after you’ve drunk your drink with a straw, although, part of it might be because of the actual drink you are drinking, part of it is the air to gulp when drinking through a straw.

Straws - Eco-Friendly or Healthy?

I use straws rarely, so I am not that afraid of these consequences. Straws can still be fun and in some situations very useful. However, the big problem I find with straws is their disposable nature. Disposable plastic straws, as you can imagine, are not great for the environment. Most common plastic straws are made from polypropylene, which as an oil derived chemical. Many straws are made of plastic that is recyclable, but it is not mentioned on the packaging or anywhere else how or where to recycle them, so most of them end up in the landfills and the ocean.You’ve probably seen the pictures of videos of people pulling a straw out of turtles nose, in addition, bigger marine animals eat them and die of the plastic in their stomachs.

Straws - Eco-Friendly or Healthy?

Although straws are not the best alternative when drinking any liquids, I think there should be some fun in our lives, and if straws can bring that little bit of fun occasionally then why not use them. But as I want to live a more sustainable lifestyle I now opt out for reusable straws, which there are now many options of from Amazon, Etsy and many zero waste stores. You can choose from glass, metal, silicone and bamboo. Eco-straws has many great alternatives!

 

Do you like drinking from straws?

With love,

Lii

A Mall for Repaired and Recycled Goods

It is quite unbelievable that I am only learning about this amazing mall, in Sweden Eskilstuna, now, when it has been open since the year 2015! As the title says there is a mall that solely sells repaired and recycled goods, in addition, they actually recycle and repair the items in the mall. How cool is that?!

A Mall for Repaired and Recycled Goods - byLiiL

The mall takes household item donations, which they then sort into workshops to be recycled or repaired and then sold in their boutiques or if there is no use to the donations they send them to the recycling centres. They have 9 running stores and 3 small pop-up stores that sell anything from furniture, computers, clothes, building materials, toys, you name it. In addition, they have the organically focused cafe and a restaurant to feed the hungry shoppers and educational centre, conference hall and a meeting room.

The team behind the mall is aiming to “make it the best town to handle waste-management” and hope the customers will bring in their unwanted items and stay to look for what they would like from the stores available to them. This sounds so exciting I wish there would be one in every town! It creates jobs and reduces the waste burden on the local governments. This is a great effort to make a whole town more sustainable!

A Mall for Repaired and Recycled Goods - byLiiL

I wonder whether this kind of a mall would be successful in a town where people are not as sustainably conscious and happy to buy second hand? Would you like to visit a mall like this?

You can read more about the mall from here1 and here2 and visit their (unfortunately it is all in Swedish) website, picture from here.

With love,

Lii

4 top articles to read this week

I am still gathering my thoughts after last week so I will rather share these 4 articles/posts with you that should bring some inspiration into the start of this week. Have a good one!

20 ways to experiment with sustainable living

This post is pretty much what I would have wanted to write! Worth a read and worth a try!

 

4 articles - byLiiL

All about jeans and sustainability

Excellent post, talking about jeans and their impact on the planet. This blog is great for all the other sustainable topics as well!

Seven Award Season Films

Lauren from My Two Pence listed seven films that she cannot wait to see and after watching all the trailers I agree with her! Especially on my list now are ‘Arrive’ and ‘The Handmaiden’.

4 articles - byLiiL

6 Women Who Won Historic Firsts

After what happened last week, this article will hopefully lift your mind. Amazing women making things happen!

Pictures are from here and here.

With love,

Lii