Through the blog, I'm keen to explore all environmental issues, and I'm especially interested to see how they are tackled internationally. In this post, photojournalist George Buid details the steps being taken in Manila to discourage textile waste and encourage recirculation.
Contributing to Waste
Manila Bay at Navotas Fishing Port covered with all the trash including textile waste. A boy who has done playing on the waters of Manila Bay is pulling his self made boat, built from styrofoam he picked from trash on the polluted shore. Photo by © George Buid 2018/04.
Everyone is now aware of how much waste we generate today. We see in the news and on social media just how much pollution is harm to our planet, and we need to do something about it. We try to call out this concern to our politicians but it takes forever for them to actually do something, if they will ever do anything at all. We then turn to big corporations and brands, we know how much they contribute to environmental pollution, but it seems they ignore us, and they know we don’t have much choice since they produce most of everything we need today. But that is the big question - do we really have a choice, or do we really depend on these people to help save the environment and provide sustainability?
The answer is that we do have a choice, and we can start helping in our own little ways. One of the biggest contributors to pollution is fast fashion. With the over-production and over-stocking in the fashion industry we produce a million tons of waste. Fashion is one of the most neglected and overlooked industries when it comes to creating statistics in relation pollution. A 2017 report suggested that the European Union textile industry created 9.35 million tons of textile waste each year. In the United States of America, 10.5 millions of tons of it goes to the landfill, and the landfill does not have the capacity to contain them anymore. The more waste we dump in one area the longer it takes for the environment to break it down, and the worst part is some of these materials it takes hundreds of years to decompose. So many of the clothes we buy today are made with plastic materials. Just look at the label when it says 'poly', like polycotton or polyester, poly is another term for plastic.
What can we do?
Clippings from textile leftovers, taken from a nearby garment factory in Manila, are turned into circular rags that are to be sold at Php 2.00 each. Photo by © George Buid
We can help in our own little way by recycling. You may be thinking that the only way we can recycle our clothes is by turning them into rags; yes, that is the most common way, but there is another way. Before we get to that, let me explain a little about recycling. There are two methods of recycling - downcycling and upcycling. Downcycling encourages reuse and repurposing, but that degrades the value of the original item. Upcycling changes the value of your item into a higher one.
Prolong the Life of Your Clothes
The torn jeans design has evolved. It used to be through use in the knee area, now it is intentionally designed all over the legs. Photo by © George Buid 2018.
Before we get to upcycling, let us first try to prolong the life of our clothes. I’m not going to tell how you wash, dry, or iron your clothes but to show you how you can creatively reuse them. Of course, you can always have someone repair them and those clothes of yours will always look the same; but what if you can redesign them? Just look at the trend for torn jeans. Jeans were originally designed for rugged use by cowboys, construction workers and other manual labourers. The rebel attitude in the 1970s and 1980s made torn jeans a statement, and today they are design statement, intentionally torn in a way that creates a pattern. There are times when a hole in your clothes doesn't render it completely useless!
You can also repair them creatively, using colourful stitches or using patches, and dyeing is another popular way that you can recreate your clothes.
A photograph campaign for the MAKESMTHNG 2018 event. This is for a workshop where you can mend your torn clothes into a more stylish outfit. Photo by © George Buid.
If you really don’t want your clothes anymore, you could swap with someone and gain by giving. This helps recirculate clothes until they are totally worn out.
Really Really Free Market Vol. 4 in Pineapple Lab. Photos by © George Buid 2019.
Also, consider vintage clothes; they maybe decades old but they are still useful if taken care of properly. Glorious Dias is owned by Jodinand, who has accidentally collected vintage clothing and now sells them at a reasonable price. Think of it like art; each piece is so rare that only you own it, no one else. So the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.
Vintage Filipiniana Clothing sold in Glorious Dias (Photos by © George Buid 2019)
A Fashion Arts Design student, of Institute of Creative Entrepreneurship, is making some retouches on one of his designs made from clipping and scrap fabrics. Photo by © George Buid 2018/08.
Now we are talking about expensive designer clothes and what comes into our minds is designer clothes. Most often than not, designers will use new materials for a design, and very seldom would they recycle or reuse someone else’s leftover textiles. But this is changing. Irene Subang creates and teaches fashion design using clippings, old garments, and upcycling used clothes to a new collection. She also gives workshops on upcycling with your own creative approach.
Photo by © George Buid
Young designers like Angelo Adame are also embracing upcycling. In his graduation collection from iAcademy, a female model wearing a transparent vest with caution tapes from the shoulders; it is inspired by the streets of Metro Manila. His vision is that “trash is not harsh and there is treasure to be found”; the waste we make can be less harmful when we recycle.
Photo by © George Buid 2019/05
Few people realised that the fashion industry had so much to do with the climate crisis we experience today. Besides the pollution it generates, it also creates a huge carbon footprint. People said it woud be hard to change the way we do it now and that it cannot be done, yet we find individuals and groups who can! The approach is simple and we can do so in our own small ways. Let us contribute in helping the environment by starting with ourselves. An easy start is the way we wear our clothes. The less we buy, the less we waste. The more we recirculate or upcycle, the more our environment can survive. If we don’t want our clothes anymore, maybe we can exchange them for new ones, donate to charity, or recreate their style. In those ways, we lessen what we waste and create more from what we have.