Did you know that clothing production has doubled worldwide, and consumers purchase 60% more textile products than ever? Americans purchase 68 clothing items from retail stores annually. As a consequence, landfill waste is rising. Textile waste is now one of the fastest-growing waste streams in the world. Textile recycling hasn’t become mainstream mainly because some people in the recycling and textiles industries say we still lack a lot of the infrastructure to repurpose clothes properly — and that there is still too much reliance on other countries to break down our garments for us.
So what can we do with the old textiles and clothing we no longer want? Many options are available so that clothing doesn’t end up in landfills. We can repair our clothing, donate clothing, and reduce our consumption. There are also ways to repurpose and reuse our old clothing by turning them into rags or even using them in the garden.
Both old and synthetic fabrics and natural fabrics can have a range of uses in a garden. Synthetic fabrics will last long and won’t rot quickly, whereas natural fabrics will break down in damp conditions in contact with soil. Your fabrics can create new growing areas, such as a fabric planting pocket vertical garden or unique planters. Cut the legs off old cotton jeans and cotton or linen slacks. Once planted with young plants, they can be transferred into the ground without removing the pant pot. The plant’s roots will grow through the pant pot into the surrounding soil. You can also use the fabric as lining for certain upcycled planters or drape them between a garden bed’s water reservoir and soil.
You can use your old clothing to protect your plants during different seasons and weather conditions. You can use them as wraps to keep container plants from freezing in the winter or act as a shade in the summer. You can even get creative in the way you use your old clothes. Try making a scarecrow to keep birds off your crops. Make an upcycled fabric tote bag to collect and carry garden produce. Or even use pieces of old clothing to tie plants to their supports. Old textiles like bedsheets can be turned into hammocks, other garden seating, or even an outdoor tent for kids. Clothes from all-natural fibres, like wool, cotton, linen and silk, can be placed into the compost bin or directly into the soil.
There are many options for you to repurpose the old clothes that you may not want anymore, that may not be fit for donations or that are beyond repair. Natural fibres are less likely to contaminate your garden than synthetic fibres, so do your best to go natural when buying clothing. Our clothing doesn’t have to go into the landfill, and we can reduce our environmental impact simply by finding new ways to use textiles in our backyards.