Why Compost clothes?
Donation is probably the most common form of disposal for old garments. For many items (like nice pants, jackets, business or formalwear, and good condition shoes), donation is a great option. For some other items like t-shirts and used shoes, the world simply has enough and there often is not enough demand. Donating these items can result in them being discarded unless taken from a secondhand purchaser.
For most donations it turns out we still have too much stuff, even for the good options listed above. In America around 85% of unwanted clothes are sent to landfills or incinerated. This graph has an orange line for compost, unfortunately at the resolution that the image was downloaded at, it is not visible here
In countries like the UK it is estimated only 10-30% of donated items stay in the country while the rest are exported overseas to be sold. While it is a nice gesture, donating many items to a large donation shop that does not need it, often will not help. Buying less is the number one impact we can all have. So we've made our products last.
Recycling is great. We think it is great to recycle clothes and if you have found a great recyclable shirt and place nearby that can recycle it, go for it. Unfortunately, the entire process is often a bit complicated and not everybody has access to good textile recycling. Check with your local collection center to make sure it is going to a good home.
Sorting textiles for recycling is a labor intensive job which means it is often outsourced. There is also a lot of fabric that still cannot be recycled. For the lucky fabric that does get recycled it will be re-spun with up to 30-70% virgin fibers for a soft finish. Unfortunately, it is not as strong as the original material and you can only recycled the same cotton a few times before it becomes too brittle.
That said, if you can recycle your clothes with a controlled supply chain, go for it, it is one of the best disposal methods we presently have available.
When looking at the process of recycling fabrics it seems composting may offer a simpler solution for all, Earth included.
We thought the only way to justify composting versus recycling is if the basic materials are better than even recycled shirts. So we did that.
By using Hemp we actually save over 700 liters of water per shirt on average compared to a new pure organic cotton shirt, and use about the same amount of water as most recycled cotton shirts. Most importantly, hemp grows quite well in its native range with just rainwater and while cotton is often supplemented with irrigation during dry spells. Hemp also uses little to no pesticides or herbicides because of the way it is grown, meaning it contributes far less to soil erosion and acidification.
Why not make use of the Earth's natural materials and processes for 'recycling' things?