‘The True Cost of Fashion’

Fairtrade Fortnight 2017 in St Andrews was huge success with over 350 people across the town and gown engaging and getting involved with the different events organised by various societies and groups across St Andrews. From smoothie bikes at halls of residences to coffee mornings within various departments of the University to a Fairtrade Hungarian Sweet loaf Skillshare, the fortnight was enjoyed by many with over £150 raised and donated to the Fairtrade Foundation.

Smoothie Bike with Just Love

One event in particular that was both eye opening and shocking was the screening of the True Cost of Fashion documentary organised by the Environment Subcommittee for the Students Association. Every year 1.5 billion garments are sown by approximately 40 million people, predominantly found in countries described as ‘least developed’. The film looks at how and where our clothing is made and the huge, and devastating human and environmental costs that come with the fast fashion industry that has evolved over the years. The documentary also focuses on those who are battling these industries, those who are striving to make consumers more aware of fashion industry and the related environmental atrocities and human exploitation. The documentary empowers individuals to make changes in buying habits that can positively change the whole supply chain. The documentary calls for positive changes that help those who are making the goods we use and who are seen to be at the bottom of the supply, by giving them the respect that they deserve.

True Cost of Fashion screening at the Byre Theatre

If you would like to watch this powerful documentary it is available on Netflix, iTunes and Amazon video or to learn more about sourcing ethically follow the link.

Businesses and institutions have a huge impact and influence on the whole supply chain. As St Andrews University moves forward into the rest of 2017 as a proud Fairtrade certified University we seek to continue in our efforts to source both food and clothing that supports those who produce and farm the things we consume on a daily basis through the provision of fairer salaries, and social and environmental opportunities for sustainable development.

But we also need change on a personal and individual level. Fairtrade Fortnight 2017 has left us thinking more critically about where we put our money and what differences we can make in our spending habits and attitudes. Do we really know where our money is going, and what it is doing? What can we change?

If you would like to see more about Fairtrade in St Andrews why not watch the latest video produced for us by Bubble TV, or email us at fairtrade@st-andrews.ac.uk. Choose Fairtrade.

 

‘Textile recycling never goes out of fashion’

Ever wondered what happens to your clothes once you’ve put them into a recycling bank, or into your local charity shop?

This week some of us from the University’s Environment Team and Transition St Andrews went to visit Nathan’s Wastesavers, one of the UK’s largest textile recycling companies based just outside of Falkirk. It was an eye opening experience not only to see the volume and scale of textiles the company deals with on a daily basis, but the hard work of their members of staff who help maintain the zero waste to landfill achievement that the company proudly holds. Our fantastic and insightful tour was led by Peter, Nathan’s Wastesavers’ Recycling Manager.

At Nathan’s Wastesavers around 250 people sort and process over 650 tons of textiles per week, with the primary aim and focus to divert any textiles from ending up at landfill. Peter told us that Nathan’s Wastesavers currently holds a 72% reuse rate and a 26% recycled rate. The remaining % of textiles is sold to DOW for energy production. These figures are incredibly encouraging and sets a challenge to all companies, that zero waste to landfill is achievable!

What actually happens within the walls of the company, and where do our clothes go?

Nathan’s Wastesavers takes in donations made to clothing banks at recycling centers and schools, and buys textiles from organizations and charity shops. Materials that are reused or recycled are then sold onto companies within the UK, and further afield to Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. This is, ultimately, how the company makes profit with prices dependent on three factors; the value of oil and the pound, and the economic growth of China.

Once the clothes have arrived at the center they are processed and divided up by hand into types of clothing or textile. Employees within the ware house work along conveyor belts dividing and sorting up the items, placing them areas divided by final destinations. Peter commented that they employ many Europeans as they have valuable knowledge of what types of clothing, shoes etc. are needed and required within specific countries that the company sells to. This, therefore, helps increase the efficiency of the whole system for both Nathan’s Wastesavers and the companies receiving the items.

What happens to the textiles once they have been sorted?

Once the textiles have been processed, items selected for Europe, Asia and Africa are transported to Grangemouth to be shipped to their final destination. However, not all goods are sold to foreign organizations. Nathan’s Wastesavers have several deals with local, UK based companies. For example, one specific area of the warehouse is designated to vintage clothing bought in by the company. Items that are identified as suitably ‘vintage’ are separated and, once sorted, sent to Armstrongs Vintage Emporium in Edinburgh, a vintage specialty shop located in the Grassmarket. Nathan’s Wastesavers also has contracts with major shoe companies including Clarks, Dune and Office. They buy in all unsold shoes that are out of season and sell them on to companies based in Europe, Asia and Africa.

Real fur vintage coats ready to be sold to Armstrongs, Edinburgh

What about the 26% of recycled materials? Where does that go?

Items brought in that are deemed to be too poor in quality to be sold on are recycled! Nathan’s Wastesavers primarily recycles the majority of textiles into cloths, usually used for cleaning purposes. Nathan’s Wastesavers also considers the bags that contain the textiles when they first arrive on site. We were informed that the bags are sold to China to a specific company. Although our tour guide acknowledged the fact that this is not the most sustainable way of recycling and reusing the bags, and that it affects the overall carbon footprint of the process, they sell the bags on to China due to the best prices they are offered by companies based there compared to UK or European companies.

Peter standing by packaged plastic bags ready to be transported to China

This is just one of the problems and concerns the company faces as they strive to a more sustainable future, both within their company and in their external processes and dealerships. Peter commented on how they can never be sure of what companies exactly do with their items once they have been sold. Is all of the clothing sold on to other companies completely reused, or does some of it end up going to landfill anyway?

When asked what we can do to help them, Peter mentioned that the public should put all clothing into bags, whether it be torn, underwear or one odd shoe. He also continued to say that people should only put textiles (and that can include curtains, bath mats etc.) into the bags and not to put in food waste or perishables. This contaminates the clothing making it unfit for processing, and can often cause problems further down the line if not identified early on.

If you would like to learn more about Nathan’s Wastesavers please take a look at their website. Here in St Andrews we have an abundance of charity shops willing to take in any clothes you no longer want! We also have a recycling bank up behind Morrisons where you can drop off all unwanted textiles at.

Think: reuse and recycle!