Consumerism, fast fashion, clothes making, clothing sustainability and the social impact of second-hand clothing were hot topics at the fifth annual Textile Recycling Conference organized by Garson & Shaw. Over 200 guests from textile recycling employees came from the U.S., Guatemala, El Salvador, Spain, Bulgaria, Canada, Slovakia, Belize, Nicaragua and Zimbabwe from Thurs., May 15, to Fri., May 16 at the King Plow Arts Center in Atlanta, Ga.
Our diverse group gathered to network and learn more about the importance of recycling. And what would a recycling conference be without showing off our best dance moves, too? Check out the video above where Garson & Shaw attendees incorporated fast facts about recycling, with the “Happy” tune from mega producer/singer/rapper Pharrell.
When attendees weren’t mingling and being “happy,” our featured speakers got down to business, discussing diverse opinions about how the textile recycling industry can both help and educate consumers.
For frugal fashionistas, Elizabeth Cline (author of “Overdressed: The shockingly high cost of cheap fashion”), the first speaker, raised questions about the fast fashion industry, which has lead to people purchasing “sale” and “clearance” items in mass amounts regardless of quality – only to dismiss shoes and clothes for the next fashionable color and style within a few weeks. Her discussion opened Pandora’s box about the fashion industry as a whole.
Is it more important for shoppers to enjoy shopping but make sure to recycle the clothing they don’t think is trendy anymore? Should shoppers spend more time carefully choosing out quality items and disregard the fast fashion industry that tells them what they should be wearing? Will U.S. textile manufacturers be forever left in the dust with Bangladesh and China as leaders in clothes making drastically lower labor rates? Should Americans have paid more attention to the factory disaster in Bangladesh that killed over 1,000 people in 2013? Should purchasing American-made clothes be a bigger deal or is the issue really recycling clothes for worldwide citizens?
The second speaker, Steve Bethell of Bank & Vogue/Beyond Retro, beamed with excitement about the perks of up-cycling clothing into fashion-forward pieces. Some of the celebrities who have worn his exclusive pieces caught audience members’ attention, but the bigger picture about up-cycling was being able to take the fashion industry back to the days when people were creative about making their own clothing. Beyond Retro gives consumers the opportunity to take a second glance at old clothes and add more pizzazz to them the way our moms used to do before the industry took over.
The third speaker, Ib Hansen of Humana People to People, delved into the social impact that results from recycling secondhand clothing. Humana People to People reaches over 12 million people worldwide, in 43 countries, to support education efforts, fight against poverty, help with world hunger, educate and battle the HIV/AIDS crisis, and improve the quality of life for the poorest communities.
And the fourth speaker, USAgain’s CEO Mattias Wallander, informed the audience about the connection between global warming and textile recycling companies. A few highlighted moments from his speech included how temperatures continue to rise in the U.S. from the ‘50s to today; how Typhoon Haiyan managed to kill 6,000 people, displace six million people and make landfall; how 2005’s Hurricane Katrina caused more than 1,800 deaths and $81 billion in property damage; how waste is linked to 36.7 percent of greenhouse gas emissions; and the significant benefits from diverting 90 percent of textiles.
Whether audience members were pros at green life or newbies to the textile recycling team, everyone learned something new and had the opportunity to brainstorm with other like minds to see what it is our companies could do to help inspire the public to transition from 85 percent of textile wastes not being recycled to 100 percent being reused.
USAgain would like to know what makes readers recycle. Who inspired you? What makes you continue to recycle? How does the fashion industry affect your everyday life? And what would make you recycle more often?