To Recycle or Not to Recycle

That is the question. After I did my research about the landfills, I had to wonder. I found it interesting that we were going to all this trouble with the consequence of permanently destroying our planet and recycling still isn’t the favorable option. How is recycling not less damaging than all the work it takes to build a landfill? Why not? Other than people’s laziness or ignorance (which could be easily fixed by making it mandatory. I’m not usually for government regulations, but if we’re going to have all these ridiculous regulations then we might as well do something good for the environment) what is the problem? Why aren’t city governments pushing it more? Why isn’t recycling mandatory? I don’t know, so I went to find out.

The words above were my mission. I wrote them before I researched anything. So did I accomplish what I set out to do?  Sort of, kind of, but not really.

” The American recycling movement began in 1987, when a barge called the Mobro 4000 traveled from New York to Belize, trying futility to unload its trash. The barge left from Islip, Long Island with over 3,100 tons of garbage, bound for North Carolina. But rumors that the garbage contained medical waste caused the destination city to reject delivery. So Mobro continued south, only to be rejected by the Mexican Navy and by Belize. The barge turned around and came back to New York. The garbage was finally incinerated in Brooklyn.

The media coverage had a lasting impact on American society. Media and environmentalists cited the incident as proof of an American waste disposal crisis. The incident triggered a national discussion about public waste disposal, leading many to believe that recycling was the only option left. In May 1987, then-New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean signed a law requiring the separation of recyclables from trash. By 1999, over 4,000 communities had begun charging households to cart away their trash. The nation’s recycling rate rose to 22 percent that year, from 10 percent in 1980.”

http://journalism.nyu.edu/publishing/archives/livewire/politics_society/post_36/

With that being said, I read a bunch of articles ranting about why certain people hate recycling. It seemed to be a starting theme of the mid-1990s. The problem is that you can find research to support just about anything. This is the most frustrating thing I’ve learned during my time of doing this. This rebuttal article had some good truths in it, but it was written in 1995, so I do believe that his argument may have been true for then, but the recycling ‘industry’ has evolved and is much more efficient. I think that his argument could be a little outdated.  And also to point out that a lot has changed in the last 17 years. We have a long history as the ‘throwaway society’, but there is much more to be thrown away now and different things that are being thrown away, electronics for one. This article helped with why it’s not the favorable option which kind of helps answer the question of why it isn’t profitable, but some of what they said didn’t really strike me as real problems just obstacles

I’ve been looking around for a while, but I haven’t been able to find enough information to become totally comfortable with my knowledge on the recycling process, so I’m not going to make too many arguments with what he said, but here is his article if you want to check it out. http://web.williams.edu/HistSci/curriculum/101/garbage.html

Some reoccurring arguments are:

Transportation costs. When trash trucks come to each house, it takes all the trash and takes it all to one place. For curb side recycling, I’m guessing, a truck of some sort comes and picks up all the recycling, takes it to a processing center, and then takes individual dumpsters go to different places. Yeah, that seems like a little extra, but I think it’s worth a little extra.

‘there is no shortage of landfill space now so why does it matter?’ Here are the exact words “And since there’s no shortage of landfill space (the crisis of 1987 was a false alarm), there’s no reason to make recycling a legal or moral imperative. Mandatory recycling programs aren’t good for posterity. They offer mainly short-term benefits to a few groups-politicians, public relations consultants, environmental organizations, waste-handling corporations-while diverting money from genuine social and environmental problems. Recycling may be the most wasteful activity in modern America: a waste of time and money, a waste of human and natural resources.” http://web.williams.edu/HistSci/curriculum/101/garbage.html  This article also has some stats on how much land is really used. Who knows if it’s true or not, but people show know both arguments so there it is.

I can’t decide if I should laugh or cry. If we knew, for sure, that we were going to run out of air wouldn’t we do everything we possibly could to stop that from happening? If we knew for sure that we or future generations would meet their demise because of our selfishness and ‘laziness’, that it wasn’t just if but when, wouldn’t we want to keep that from happening for as long as possible? Trash isn’t something that kills instantly, but it does kill and even if it didn’t, why would someone want to push the mess that they made on to someone else? It would be awful to have to live buried up to my eyeballs in other people’s junk and waste. I must also argue that the waste management system in general is the most wasteful activity in modern America. Recycling is part of waste management that is why it is wasteful.

Costs in general. The cost of recycling is somewhat of a problem. Sometimes more in certain cities, sometimes less, depending on how much is recycled, method it’s recycled, man power needed, real estate costs, land costs (for landfills), transportation costs, proximity to landfills or recycle centers, etc. In regards to this issue, I’ll start by saying every waste management program has different issues. The more people recycle, the more the program pays for itself. If governments implemented a policy where people who recycled had to pay less waste management fees, the more they recycled the less they had to pay, and the people who didn’t recycle at all had to carry the extra costs, then I’d bet a lot more people would be recycling. If all the trash went into the same truck to the same building, whether it had separate compartments or people sorted it later then that would take care of parts of the logistics problems. The manpower needed to do the sorting would add to the manpower problem, but last time I checked jobs were a good thing, even it seems like the worst job ever. And if nothing else then the prisoners or forced community service people could do it. There are plenty of those and it may even motivate people to keep from coming back from prison. Recycling will always be more expensive if the cost of dumping in the landfill or the land itself is cheap. It’s easy to fix that. Just increase the cost of land. Problem solved. I read an article about New York and they cut plastic and glass from their recycling program. It was supposed to cut costs and it did until the price of land went up then it was cheaper to just recycle it. http://environment.about.com/od/recycling/a/must_recycle.htm

All my solutions may be stupid, I don’t know because I can’t find the information I need to see why or why these programs won’t or don’t work. They’re just thoughts.

The last argument is that it’s not profitable. I kind of touched on this in various places, but I wonder how this is even an argument. Putting all junk in the landfills isn’t profitable either. Recycling may or may not be profitable financially, but it’s a long term investment. It costs either way, so what difference does how we do it make? It balances itself out to some extent.

The benefits of recycling are pretty straight forward. Greenhouse emissions are reduced, energy needs are reduced and saves natural resources. Even if we’re not running out, (I think running out is a relative term) why waste these things or create a problem where there doesn’t have to be one.

http://www.massrecycle.org/recycling_benefits.html

I did find some FAQ for cities or institutions that have mandatory recycling. They made me happy, I’m not going to lie. They weren’t worried about making friends, they cared about doing what was right and that was that. They support some of my conclusions and they use what seems like common sense.

http://www.edcodisposal.com/images/La-Mesa-Recyc-FAQs.pdf

What if I don’t have room for recycling?

In some cases it will replace trash needs and new space will not be needed. If your property is small and does not have enough dumpster space to spare, smaller recycling carts can be added.

What is the penalty for violating La Mesa’s mandatory recycling ordinance?

Violation of the ordinance is considered an infraction and can result in a citation and fine of up to $250 per day of the infraction.

How does La Mesa’s mandatory recycling ordinance impact my home or business?

Multi-family residential and commercial properties and businesses that are not currently recycling must do so within the timeframe specified. EDCO is La Mesa’s permitted hauler and although the service does have a cost, some may see their bills decrease by as much as 30% due to decreased trash service needs.

Straightforward. Recycle or pay the penalty. Simply Awesome, right? I thought so too.

Then I found this article titled “Is Recycling Worth It?”

It states, “Recycling is sustainable as long as it makes profit. The more materials a facility collects and sorts, the less it costs to sort each pound.”

Which makes sense. I mean after a certain point, if it’s running the city into the ground then yeah, maybe we should think of something else, but it’s not all about the money which is hard to argue if people are denying that its harmful for the environment.

They go on to say that recycling is a fraud and a waste of time.

“But Duke University Professor Michael Munger cites the requirement for cleaning and sorting as a reason why recycling is a waste of time. In fact, Munger compares recycling to religion. He gives an example of a woman who once told him, “Recycling is cheaper regardless of the cost.” Munger calls that a moral imperative, something you do out of compulsion rather than economic sense. He references Raleigh, South Carolina, where recycling facilities collect glass, but then take it to a landfill. “There was a political demand for glass,” says Munger. “Everybody knows it’s not economical to recycle glass but we want people to get into the habit.” Munger has written papers and given talks about recycling as a fraud. His underlying statement makes sense: “The point is, you should recycle things you can make money from recycling.”

That’s a little harsh if you ask me, but who am I to argue with a Duke University Professor. I think there is more to it than money and that’s the point that most critics are missing.

They go on to talk about upcycling and how that is a better solution because it’s ‘profitable’. It was cool to see that side of it.

Then they say:

Last June, the local government of San Francisco passed a law mandating both recycling and composting—with the failure to observe punishable by a minimum $100 fine, which increases with repeat offenses. In Seattle, sanitation workers enforce the mandatory recycling law. They tag unsorted trash and leave it behind, and until the waste is properly sorted, it remains on the curb for neighbors to see. Shame is a useful tactic, Brett Stav, a planning and development specialist for Seattle Public Utilities, told The New York Times; by 2009 recycling had improved by 10 percent since the program was implemented in 2003.

Despite all the con arguments that are within the article, the bottom line was to say that due to inefficiencies of 20 years ago, recycling was not always practical. Technologies and manufacturing processes have developed to efficiently handle the supply of recyclable materials. The demand for recyclables has gone up, the cost of processing them has gone down, and ‘the need for minimizing our environmental impact has heightened.’ So yes, this article seems to think recycling is ‘worth it.’

http://journalism.nyu.edu/publishing/archives/livewire/politics_society/post_36/

So this is what I found. The same arguments just said a different way. Reducing and Reusing should be the first steps and really they’re the easiest, but I think recycling is better than nothing. It wasn’t as detailed as I had hoped, but hopefully I have given you the basics of both sides, so that you can make your own decision. Below are some links to various sites that talk about why or why not some governments recycle, so can check them out.

http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120422/NEWS11/304220053/TN-urged-recycle-more

http://www.warwickri.gov/recycsanit/faq.htm

http://environment.about.com/od/recycling/a/must_recycle.htm

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Poisonous Plastics

I think one of the more annoying things I’ve come to have knowledge about is the amount people who use plastic forks and spoons everyday and by every day I mean every day. On a regular basis people waste the money to buy the gas that they will then use to waste money to waste the environment instead of buying a pack of silverware ONCE and just washing them by hand or via dish washer. Plastic use is very hard to avoid, however using plastic cutlery isn’t a necessity. According to the EPA, 12 percent of the solid waste stream is plastic. Out of the 31 million tons of plastic produced last year, only 2.4 million tons were recycled. Approximately 40 billion plastic utensils are used every year in the USA alone, together with billions of Styrofoam and plastic cups, plates etc. Plastic bags could take up to one million years to decompose and a Styrofoam box could take more than one million years to decompose.

If one doesn’t care about the environment then they should give their health a thought.

Polyvinyl Chloride( #3)- This plastic is used mostly in construction and consumer goods, but the Center for Health, Environment and Justice and the Environmental Health Strategy Center have asked companies to limit their use of this plastic. It has serious side effects for its use. It’s made out of highly polluting and cancer-causing chemicals that have contaminated the areas where PVC is manufactured.  Some PVC is made out of plasticizers that will leach out of finished products and have been known to cause developmental and reproductive damage. When PVC is burned it leads to emission of dioxins that cause cancer, reproductive, developmental and immune problems. Putting these materials in landfills can cause the toxic substances to leach into ground water. PVC is difficult to recycle and contaminates other kinds of plastics when recycled with them.

Over 7 billion pounds of PVC are thrown away in the U.S. each year. Only 18 million pounds of that, about one quarter of 1 percent, is recycled.3

Polystyrene (#6)- This plastic is used to make foam food trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers, opaque plastic cutlery and other disposable food service items. The chemicals used to make this plastic can leak into food and beverages. According to the EPA, extreme levels can cause nervous systems effects such as loss of concentration, weakness, and nausea. Long term exposure can cause cancer, liver and nerve damage.

Polycarbonates and Others (#7): Number 7 plastics are the rejects from all the other categories, but they all usually include one thing and that’s polycarbonates. Polycarbonates are used in plastic baby bottles, plastic liners of metal food cans, sport water bottles and other items. Bisphenol- A (BPA) is an endocrine disrupter that used in making polycarbonates. A recent review of studies regarding BPA’s effects (Environmental Health Perspectives, August 2005) finds that more than 80 percent of published studies assessing the effects of low-dose BPA exposure on laboratory animals found significant effects, including alterations to brain chemistry and structure, behavior, the immune system, and male and female reproductive systems.

http://www.greenamerica.org/livinggreen/plastics.cfm

Just something to think about

How Long Does It Take- Plastic

Wood, grass and food scraps undergo a process known as biodegradation when they’re buried. They’re transformed by bacteria in the soil into other useful compounds. This doesn’t work with plastic and that’s why it’s not unreasonable to believe that plastic will never biodegrade. To decompose, plastic needs sunlight. This is called photodegradation and happens because UV rays strike plastic and then it breaks the bonds holding the long molecular chain together. Over time this will turn a big piece of plastic into lots of little pieces.  Research says it could take up to or more than a million years for this to happen.

This is a problem because most plastic never gets to see the light of day. Landfills are usually set up as one of two ways. Either the landfill is set up where trash is buried or where trash is piled up like a mountain.

Then there is the plastic that ends up in the ocean or another body of water. It gets all of the sunlight that it needs to break down and it can break down in as fast as a year, but the problem now is those little bits of plastic are toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A and PS oligomer.

Biodegradable plastics are somewhat better, but not really. There are two kinds, Polylactic Acid and Oxo-degradable plastic.

PLA is made from plant sugars. It does not use oil and it breaks down into water and carbon dioxide when exposed to bacteria. The good thing about this plastic is that it doesn’t use fossil fuels (plastic already takes up 200,000 barrels of oil a day in the United States) and it uses 65 percent less energy than producing regular plastic. The bad news is that it takes a controlled environment. Unless all oxygen is removed and temperatures reach at least 140 degrees for 10 consecutive days then the bacteria can’t do their work. In these conditions it will take as little as 90 days to decompose, but these are unrealistic expectations for lives in landfills. The plastic bags will stay around just as long as the other kind. The last problem is that they can’t be recycled.

Oxo-degradable plastics are by products of oil. They decompose in oxygen rich environments such as large industrial composting tanks, but not landfills.

Although it would not be unreasonable to say that totally ridding one’s life of plastic is impossible, there are some things that people can do to reduce their plastic use.

Try to reduce the number of things that you buy that are packaged in plastic. By a water filter instead of buy bottled water or use a reusable water bottle that you can reuse instead of a one use only bottle. This goes for many other things. Next time you go shopping look at the other options you have in that aisle.  Buy trash bags, detergent, bar soap, cereal, that come in boxes instead of another bag. Also check to see, usually on the bottom, what kind of plastic it is because you might be able to recycle. 1 and 2 plastics are the most likely plastics to be received by recycling centers.

Use reusable bags when you go shopping. At our house we have a trashcan under the sink that is the perfect size for grocery store type plastic bags, but if you don’t have that option bring cloth bags with you to the store or reuse the same plastic bag multiple times. Also, if it’s an option, you can ask for paper instead of plastic.

Use old/used paper or newspaper as packing for mailing packages instead of bubble wrap, air filled plastic or packing peanuts.

Use real dishes instead of plastic dishes.

Make compost for your scraps of food and after it decomposes put it back into the earth. This is great fertilizer for gardens, but you don’t need a garden to have a compost bin. Since my mom has started her compost we have cut our need for trash bags by almost half. That’s pretty good.

Clothing Solutions: Part 3

Here are those clothing solutions I promised.

First, you can go dumpster diving and get those usable garments that whatever person threw away instead of doing the generous thing and giving them to to someone else. I go dumpster diving as I need stuff and since I don’t often need new clothes, then I find myself at a disadvantage  here. I assume that clothes would send their extra clothes back to their warehouse, but after studying others experiences, I have found that that may not always be true. I would say now that the best place to go would be actual stores. Writing this article has giving me motivation to go and try my hypothesis myself and I shall have my conclusion by the end of the week.

The second thing you can do is to thrift shopping. This I have done and I can say that you can find something excellent finds if you look.

For those who are unwilling to either then the below are so options for you. You can by your things from companies who are doing the right thing or buy fabrics who will have less of an impact on the earth’s health.

Some companies have taken the road less traveled.

The International Standards Organization (ISO) has defined eco-fashions as “identifying the general environmental performance of a product within a product group based on its whole life-cycle in order to contribute to improvements in key environmental measures and to support sustainable consumption patterns.”

One approach has been to use sustainably grown cotton, hemp, bamboo, and other fiber crops that require less pesticides, irrigation, and other inputs. Organic cotton is grown in at least 12 countries. Organic cotton only represents .03 percent of cotton sales.

Another approach is the use of polymers created from plant-based materials. One such material trademarked by Cargill, Ingeo, is made of corn by-products that are fermented and transformed into polylactide. This polymer is spun into fibers and woven into fabrics that, under strictly managed circumstances, could be composted (polylactide, marketed under the name NatureWorks PLA, is also fashioned into wraps, rigid food and beverage containers, coated papers and boards, and other packaging applications). Versace is one of the haute couture designer clothing firms that have used Ingeo in their collections

Other retailers large and small are taking different steps to appeal to the environmentally conscious consumer. Tesco, the largest British retailer, has commissioned a study by Oxford University toward developing a Sustainable Consumption Institute to establish a system to label every product sold by Tesco on the basis of its carbon emission footprint.

Eco-friendly fabrics generally have the following characteristics:

  • Minimum use of chemicals and pesticides
  • Best land manangement practices
  • Sustainable farming practices
  • Eco-friendly certification (i.e. EU-Eco label certification)
  • Animal friendly
  • Production adheres to fair trade practices

Here’s a list of eco-friendly fibers to look out for and also I’ve added a link where you learn more about them. Next time you’re shopping for clothes, look out for clothes that are made from the following fibers (or other eco-friendly fibers):

Hemp – An amazing natural fiber. Some say hemp could have 25,000 uses. Hemp provides enormous benefit to the natural environment. This is true when used in products and when growing the hemp plant.

http://www.naturallifemagazine.com/0906/hemp_fiber_makes_a_comeback.htm

Jute – Similar to hemp, jute is a type of vegetable fiber used for thousands of years, with outstanding potential for the future.

http://www.jute-industry.com/jute-eco-friendly-fiber.html

Ingeo – Trademark for a man-made fiber derived from corn.

http://www.ingeoperformanceapparel.com/docs/hohenstein_report.pdf

Calico – Fabric made from unbleached cotton. Also referred to as muslin.

http://www.natural-environment.com/blog/2008/03/04/what-is-calico/

Hessian Cloth – Coarse woven fabric made from jute or hemp.

http://www.natural-environment.com/blog/2008/03/11/what-is-hessian-cloth/

Organic cotton – Cotton grown organically (without pesticides etc) http://www.fitsugar.com/Bamboo-Organic-Cotton-Other-Sustainable-Fabric-Facts-15849401

Bamboo Fiber – Bamboo fabric is very comfortable and 100% biodegradable. http://ecosalon.com/bamboo-eco-friendly-or-greenwash/

Lyocell Tencel® – Brand name for a biodegradable fabric made from wood pulp cellulose. http://www.greenlivinggoddess.com/gl-lifestyle.html#lyocell

Ramie – Ramie fibers are one of the strongest natural fibers. Ramie can be up to 8 times stronger than cotton, and is even stronger when wet.

http://www.natural-environment.com/blog/2008/01/25/what-is-ramie-fabric/

Organic Wool – Organic wool is wool that has been produced in a way that is less harmful to the environment than non-organic wool.

http://inspirewireblog.com/the-timid-crocheter-going-green-with-wool-part-1/

Organic Linen – Linen that is made from flax fiber. Could also refer to be linen made from other organically grown plant fibers.

http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/ar/archive/nov05/fiber1105.htm

FORTREL EcoSpun – Fiber made from plastic containers that resembles fleece.

Milk Silk – Silk made from milk

http://www.liahren.com/product/milk-fiber-functions.html

Soy Silk – Silk made from soybeans

http://www.marigoldlane.com/greenliving/soysilk.html

Nettle fiber – Made from stinging nettle (commonly known as a weed) http://www.swicofil.com/products/016nettle.html

Spider-web fabric – Fabric made from spider webs. Still in the experimental stages. http://www.natural-environment.com/blog/2008/01/22/is-that-a-spider-web-youre-wearing/

http://www.natural-environment.com/blog/2008/04/10/17-eco-friendly-fabrics/

Thanks for reading and good luck!

Clothing Waste Endemic: Part 2

Don’t forget to check back and read my next post Clothing Solutions

Clothes. We need them. Even if nudists, eventually they’re going to want to leave their house and when that day comes they can either get arrested for indecent exposure or they can buy some clothes. What kind of clothes will they buy? Will they buy clothes that with each step of the clothing life cycle they generate potential environmental and occupational hazards or will they choose the road less traveled by making the better decision for the environment?

I guess for some it’s a tough decision. I usually wear t-shirts, jeans, and converses. I don’t pretend to understand what the big deal is about wearing nice clothes. When I have to work, I dress better, but I don’t want to and I don’t like to. Why other people do, I’ll never know.  Some people say it gives them confidence, some say they just like it, whatever the reason, there’s a responsible way to do it and there is an irresponsible way to do it. Most will choose to do it the impractical and therefore irresponsible because that’s what fashion is and by fashion I mean the trendy kind, the kind that lasts like five minutes before you throw out your closet to replace it with something that makes even less sense.

Both globalization and consumerism are the main reasons for our clothing overload. Globalization has made it possible to produce clothing at increasingly lower prices, prices so low that many consumers consider this clothing to be disposable. Some call it “fast fashion,” the clothing equivalent of fast food.

The fashion industry is constantly evolving. That creates a couple of problems for both environmentalists and anti-consumerists.

  1. It means that people are always throwing away clothes to make room for new ones. Most people don’t donate their clothes which means they’re just adding the waste in the landfills. According to the EPA Office of Solid Waste, Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year, and clothing and other textiles represent about 4% of the municipal solid waste. But this figure is rapidly growing.
  2. As prices and quality of new clothing continue to decline, so too will the demand for used clothing diminish. This is because in the world of fast fashion, new clothing could be bought almost as inexpensively as used clothing. Which means that even if people donate their clothes, it won’t matter because why buy used clothes if you can new ones for the same price? Which means the clothes will just go in the landfill no matter what because there are no people to buy them.
  3. The knock offs of these fashion forward clothes are made from man-made fibers such as polyester. The manufacture of polyester and other synthetic fabrics is an energy-intensive process requiring large amounts of crude oil and releasing emissions including volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and acid gases such as hydrogen chloride, all of which can cause or aggravate respiratory disease. Volatile monomers, solvents, and other by-products of polyester production are emitted in the wastewater from polyester manufacturing plants.
  4. Cotton, one of the most popular and versatile fibers used in clothing manufacture, also has a significant environmental footprint. This crop accounts for a quarter of all the pesticides used in the United States, the largest exporter of cotton in the world, according to the USDA.
  5. Globalization, driven by improved technology and reduced trade barriers is rapidly increasing the connections between people around the world. There are new opportunities to address poverty but also increased awareness of human rights and environmental issues. Many developing countries are offering major manufacturers tax breaks, low cost land and labour to build factories in areas known as Export Processing Zones. This creates new employment opportunities and income for poor families and export income for the country but sometimes working conditions are exploitative.
  6. Much of the cotton produced in the United States is exported to China and other countries with low labor costs, where the material is milled, woven into fabrics, cut, and assembled according to the fashion industry’s specifications. China has emerged as the largest exporter of fast fashion, accounting for 30% of world apparel exports, according to the UN Commodity Trade Statistics database.
  7. According to figures from the U.S. National Labor Committee, some Chinese workers make as little as 12–18 cents per hour working in poor conditions.

The Manufacturing provides a whole other set of problems.

  1.  Dyeing alone can account for most of the water used in producing a garment; unfixed dye then often washes out of garments, and can end up colouring the rivers, as treatment plants fail to remove them from the water. Dye fixatives – often heavy metals – also end up in sewers and then rivers.
  2. Cloth is often bleached using dioxin-producing chlorine compounds.
  1. And virtually all polycotton (especially bedlinen), plus all ‘easy care’, ‘crease resistant’, ‘permanent press’ cotton, are treated with toxic formaldehyde (also used for flameproofing nylon).

http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1289%2Fehp.115-a449

 

Clothing Materials With Issues: Part 1

Big companies care only about making money. They may take steps towards more environmentally friendly practices, but only if there is some benefit in it for them. The bottom line is that the responsibility for the decision rests solely with the consumer. If you don’t buy it then they won’t sell it.

So, what can you do? A good place to start is to know what the kinds of fabrics are and why not or why they’re harmful for the environment. There is so much information on this subject that I could have done multiple posts. I hate to complain about problems without giving solutions, but it was way too long to do just one post so I’ve divided it into three. The solutions fabrics that actually are good for the environment won’t come until the third post.  It will take a bit more effort to get these fabrics and products that are made from it, but it’s something that I think is worth it. Check back and read Clothing Waste Endemic.

Different fabrics have different impacts, depending on what they’re made of:

Nylon and polyester

Made from petrochemicals, these synthetics are non-biodegradable as well, so they are inherently unsustainable on two counts. Nylon manufacture creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 310 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Making polyester uses large amounts of water for cooling, along with lubricants which can become a source of contamination. Both processes are also very energy-hungry.

Rayon (viscose)

This is another artificial fiber, made from wood pulp, which on the face of it seems more sustainable. However, old growth forest is often cleared and/or subsistence farmers are displaced to make way for pulpwood plantations. Often the tree planted is eucalyptus, which draws up phenomenal amounts of water, causing problems in sensitive regions. To make rayon, the wood pulp is treated with hazardous chemicals such as caustic soda and sulphuric acid.

Cotton

Natural fibers have their problems, too. Cotton is the most pesticide intensive crop in the world : these pesticides injure and kill many people every year. It also takes up a large proportion of agricultural land, much of which is needed by local people to grow their own food. Herbicides, and also the chemical defoliants which are sometimes used to aid mechanical cotton harvesting, add to the toll on both the environment and human health. These chemicals typically remain in the fabric after finishing, and are released during the lifetime of the garments. The development of genetically modified cotton  adds environmental problems at another level. Organic Cotton is quite another matter.

Wool

Both agricultural and craft workers in the UK suffer from exposure to organophosphate sheep dip.

Manufacturing processes

Getting from fibre to cloth – bleaching, dyeing, and finishing – uses yet more energy and water, and causes yet more pollution.

  1. Dyeing alone can account for most of the water used in producing a garment; unfixed dye then often washes out of garments, and can end up colouring the rivers, as treatment plants fail to remove them from the water. Dye fixatives – often heavy metals – also end up in sewers and then rivers.
  2. Cloth is often bleached using dioxin-producing chlorine compounds.
  3. And virtually all polycotton (especially bedlinen), plus all ‘easy care’, ‘crease resistant’, ‘permanent press’ cotton, are treated with toxic formaldehyde (also used for flameproofing nylon).

Other materials used in clothing and shoes include:

  • Leather (with polluting tanning and dyeing processes, as well as intensive farming impacts and animal rights issues).
  • PVC– a notoriously toxic material.
  • Harmful solvents – used e.g. in glues and to stick plastic coatings to some waterproof fabrics.

http://www.greenchoices.org/green-living/clothes/environmental-impacts

Five minutes Is All It Takes

Sometimes needing gasoline in my car is a real pain. There are a couple of reasons that I hate it. Every time I go it reminds me of one, the fact that I’m doing my part in destroying in the planet (even though I have a somewhat fuel efficient car, I’m always reminded that I could do better, but I don’t have the money to buy a different car). I drive as carefully as I can, such as not slamming on my breaks not slamming on the gas pedal, etc. Two, it reminds me of how heavily I rely on my car. I hate relying on anything that can be taken away. My car could definitely be taken away.  And three that it costs me an arm and a leg to fill it up. But one day my whole attitude changed.  I saw something amazing. It wasn’t anything that I hadn’t noticed before, but I saw it in a whole new light. It was a trash can. A trash can full to the brim of recyclable trash and craft items just waiting to be seen and appreciated.

My tank is pretty small, so it only takes a few minutes to fill it up, but while I waited I decided to put my time to good use. The trash was pretty easy to get to since it was pretty much heaping over. There was water bottles, recyclable ones I might add, right on the top, so I grabbed them and put them in a sack that I now keep in my car for times just like those. I had only grabbed five because then my car was ready to go.  If I had spent any more time there it would have defeated the purpose which was to show fast and easy it can be to help the environment and recycle. Just five minutes, the five minutes you would have wasted otherwise because you were waiting for your gas while, you could save five bottles. That will depend on how many times you have to get gas and how many times you need it.  If you fill up your tank once a week for a year, then you can get 260 bottles. That doesn’t seem like much, but one bottle can light 60-watt light bulb for 6 hours. Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to keep a 100-watt bulb burning for almost four hours or run your television for three hours.  It doesn’t get any easier, it won’t hurt anyone or anything, and you just can’t go wrong. I recycled the bottles and kept the caps for one of my projects.