How do you recycle?
What should you do with plastic bottles, textile scraps, paper, cardboard, glass, wood and metal? At the beginning there are different possibilities of recycling and reuse.
With Cradle to Cradle (C2C) the raw material cycle closes and opens again and again. A distinction is made between biological and technical cycles. For example, a compostable T-shirt made from organically grown cotton can provide a biological nutrient base and enable more new organic growth. Office chairs and washing machines, on the other hand, are broken down into their technical nutrients and sometimes transform into new objects or technical devices.
To completely do without waste is the great credo of the Zero Waste movement around Bea Johnson. With a no to useless items such as disposable crockery or a monthly shopping flash and a yes to reusable, second-hand and recycling bins, the garbage is minimized as if by itself. The compost as the cradle of new organic life is getting more and more attention. Unpackaged shops, creative minds with great reuse ideas and skilled hands for repairs are also effective companions in the fight against waste.
Recycling (material recovery) is not a modern invention. Even in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, resourceful people knew how to collect, melt and rework metal and glass. The basic idea of conserving raw materials and avoiding new mountains of rubbish has not changed to date. The only thing that has been added is the option of nowadays to carry out much more complex and expensive recycling and to recycle a larger repertoire of raw materials. Simple old glass can be converted into new glasses and bottles in the same high quality as old bicycles can be converted into tinplate aluminum cans for vegetables and soups.
How much plastic is recycled?
If you have in mind the countless yellow bins that adorn many a house wall, you would think that Germany is a pioneer in recycling plastic. The reality of the numbers often reveals a different truth. On the positive side, 99% of German plastic waste is recycled and does not end up in the usual landfills with household waste.
The "Plastic Atlas", published by the Heinrich Böll Foundation and BUND 2019, provides statistics on how much plastic is recycled in Germany. This document, published once a year, reveals that around 60% of plastic waste is not converted into new plastic, but "recycled for energy". What reads well at first is simply a flattering description for disposal via plastic waste incineration. The resulting carbon dioxide and the toxic residues are certainly not an acceptable option for recycling.
The remaining 40% or so of plastic waste is only recycled into new plastic as a small proportion of about 17%. Some of the rest ends up as export abroad or has to be incinerated as multilayer plastic or due to high levels of contamination.
Even if these sustainability figures don't seem very encouraging, separating and revitalizing plastic waste is still worthwhile. Better than activating the awareness of recycling even more, however, is the insight to avoid plastic and single-use as possible. The seas and their inhabitants will thank us.
Recycling plastic, Germany has some catching up to do!
Since not every recyclable material is suitable for the production of food-safe raw materials, there is currently too little recycled PET. The strict regulations on food quality make recycling considerably more difficult. Companies are therefore trying to sharpen and broaden their view of sustainability. For example, a lot of work is being done to minimize the outer packaging. On the one hand, it is important to reduce the amount of film and the weight of the film. On the other hand, new outer packaging made of plant and paper fibers is used in order to increase the recycled content to 100% if possible.
A great thing for avoiding packaging waste as completely as possible when shopping are packaging-free shops. These shops enable their customers to shop without waste or offer sustainable and reusable packaging solutions. The range mostly includes organic, regional and seasonal products. The big advantage besides the aspect of sustainability is the support of local structures and the avoidance of long transport routes.
How does plastic recycling work?
The process of how plastic is recycled begins with the collection of the containers full of empty PET bottles. Since colorless raw material is best, it is sorted out and sent to the recycling process.
The bottles, which are then shredded into PET flakes, are cleaned, melted and mixed in a water bath. From the resulting hot mass, many thick threads are first formed, which taper into yarn and are wound on spools and brought to the weaving mill.
Finally, high-tech weaving machines produce white lengths of fabric. Dyed and coated on both sides, the resulting new products and clothing from recycling are not only any color, but also practically water-repellent.
How much clothing is recycled?
Around 98% of used textiles in Germany are recycled. The remaining 2% are unusable and are burned. At over 50%, the majority of used clothing is sold again worldwide as second hand goods. Another 21% of the textiles are only processed into cleaning rags. The remainder of around 23% ends up as secondary raw material in further processing or is used as high-quality substitute fuel.
What happens to broken clothing and textile scraps?
Leftovers cannot be recycled without a loss of quality. The secondary fibers obtained during processing become shorter and more unstable with each recycling. Upgrading with fresh fibers slows down this so-called downcycling in part, but there is no way to prevent it. In the end, T-shirts and trousers can only be recycled into insulation material, insulating materials and industrial cleaning rags.
Upcycling is a creative way of utilizing resources. What is supposedly unusable is simply revitalized close to its original form without melting down and using a lot of energy. Resourceful sewing enthusiasts can easily tailor trendy shorts from trousers with broken long legs or convert a disused men's shirt into a stylish short-sleeved dress.
The company HALFAR® has dedicated one of its collections to sustainability. The Bielefeld-based company offers its customers the opportunity to design recycling bags from their own (residual) material and thus produce unique bags. Not only is clothing recycled, but individual items are also created from used materials such as tarpaulins, sails, advertising banners, carpets, jute sacks, curtains and upholstery. In connection with material from the production, own fasteners, straps and other accessories, there are no limits to the design possibilities. In the end, upcycling bags are created that are not only unique, but also perfect the recycling of old clothing and carry it out into the world with a model that is worth copying.
The Berlin shirt label Aluc is also setting a good example and has written individuality instead of waste on the company flags. The designers buy a lot of leftover high-quality shirt fabrics from weaving mills that would otherwise end up in the garbage. New creations are devised and designed from these textile scraps. Which of the different fabrics will be used for sleeves, collars or back is only decided during production. The shirts created in this way demonstrate style and character that are not lacking in sophistication.
What to do with old and already broken clothes?
Once you've just got tired of your old clothes and tried every possible combination, there are a few ways to please other people with it.
Online sales are the top priority in clothing recycling these days. Quickly take a nice photo, a short description and the article goes on the World Wide Web. So clothes are spinning and the pages on classifieds markets fill up more and more.
People who prefer it personal should give their old treasures in the second hand store or take them to the man or woman at a flea market.
Charitable institutions are given pleasure with sorted out wardrobe contents, which add to and multiply the stock for those in need. The used clothes container principle works in a similar way, the contents of which are collected, assessed and processed. Recycling old clothes also means donating clothes to projects and thus living sustainably.
Broken clothes are not necessarily a throwaway. According to the motto make new clothes out of old clothes without sewing, shopping bags can be easily made from worn jeans, a scarf from a T shirt or cuffs from sweater sleeves. According to the motto make new from old, you delight many loved ones in the form of an individual gift from the heart without spending a lot of money.
Where can I dispose of old and broken clothes when clothes can no longer be recycled?
If the closet is almost empty after the big clearing out and the pockets are full of broken and old materials, the question always arises, where is it going? After sorting into wearable clothes and old clothes, the first contact points can be found in non-profit organizations, homeless shelters, asylum houses. So the new porters are happy about your sorted out clothes and the environment about smaller mountains of rubbish. If you can really no longer use, upgrade or repurpose discarded clothes, shoes and scraps of fabric, they can be found in the household waste, with which they are ultimately burned.
An impressive example of a special kind of recycling and clothing made from recycled material
About 10% of the world's plastic waste is abandoned fishing nets. To deal with this pollution is the idea of a European initiative. The aim is to collect the ghost nets, which are mostly made of plastic, and other plastic waste from the oceans and then to the ECONYL-Fibre further processing. The synthetic fiber, which is made from 100% recycled materials, has the properties of nylon and can be processed in a similarly diverse manner. As a result, underwear, hosiery and fashion from the sports and bathing sector are created from what was once marine litter.