Sunday, August 22, 2010

Waste management hierarchy

Image from the Wikipedia article on waste management hierarchy.
In the wake of the NYTimes article and it going viral, it's perhaps timely to reiterate a few things. A number of people have left comments on various blogs as well as emailed me directly about various textile recycling options. Thank you all.

Where waste is unavoidable, reuse and recycling are of course solutions. It is, however, always better to try and avoid creating waste in the first place, and this is the premise for my research. A fairly simple idea: that when making clothes, it is NOT ok to not use all of the fabric in a garment. A look at various recycling schemes for pre-consumer textile waste have only strengthened my view on this, as often the resulting product is of lesser value than the original textile. I played with this when I did the exhibition Bad Dogs in 2008: two garments were made from a military blanket that was made from textile scrap; bits of jersey were still visible in the felt, and my apartment was filled with fluffy dust after I cut them out. McDonough and Braungart, amongst others, called this reduction in value through recycling downcycling in Cradle to Cradle. A lot of the time, I'd argue, recycling is a 'band-aid solution' to a problem. Waste avoidance and minimisation are preferred. Nevertheless, textile waste isn't going anywhere fast, and a couple of solutions merit a mention. Perhaps the most common thing people have emailed me is the use of denim scrap as insulation, as covered by Treehugger. Nevertheless, given the huge impact cotton farming has in certain parts of the world (Lynda Grose deals with the complexity of cotton farming beautifully in her chapter in Sustainable Textiles), I'd say waste avoidance is better here, too. A somewhat better option in that the function of the cotton fibre is retained through recycling is R.E.U.S.E Jeans. On this, the retention of function in recycling, I'd recommend reading Paul Palmer of the Zero Waste Institute.

The two garments are below. I hope it's obvious but in case not, I aimed to make a beautiful coat and an ugly waistcoat from the coat scraps. Get it?

There is a lot of other misinformation out there already, which I'll address in coming days, time allowing.


Holly McQuillan said...

Fantastic post Timo - So often people want a one size fits all solution to every problem - The most common question i get is "why is what you do better than any other 'eco fashion' approach?" I always say it is another tool to use - you just need to have a bunch at your disposal and know when to best use each - recycling is one tool, but there are often better ways to deal with waste (have none to start with!). I love the image of the beautiful coat and ugly waist (waste?) coat. Really illustrates what we are NOT about!

Timo Rissanen said...

I actually had a chat about this with Tara St James yesterday; how it should be about finding the appropriate solution to a particular problem. Too right: too often people want a blanket solution, to stay on the blanket theme :)

barbi said...

I work with re-purposing beach plastic, waste plastic that gyrates all oceans and eventually ends up on our beaches. Collection is called Plastic is Forever. Like you I've been a designer for too long to know what waste there is, I started CK @ calvin Klein and had given up when this concept became my destiny. Great, as yet secret collaborations on the horizon, keep watching out for it...

wavedeva said...

I'm so impressed with the zero waste design process; I'm just shaking my head at people who don't get it. Of course it's always better to use as little resources as possible to make an item and to have as little waste as possible. Since even recycling consumes energy, obviously the less waste that is generated, the better. Stay strong, you're "preaching to the choir" with me!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on a great article on zero waste in Helsingin Sanomat today!

Keep up the good work.

Zvet said...

Hi Timo
thank you for your post
I have just started my project of clothes up-cycling using Cradle 2 Cradle philosophy.
I do believe that it is possible to avoid wastes or at least to diminish them. Up cycle old clothes or use the cuts to make new things
see my examples

Timo Rissanen said...

Thanks all for your kind comments x