Film “Towards Zero Textile Waste” hones in on San Francisco’s waste problem

The Apparel Design & Merchandising department sponsored a film viewing last week with the intention of opening people’s eyes to the rising problem of textile waste.

The film, “Towards Zero Textile Waste,” which premiered in the Creative Arts building Thursday evening, was a collaboration by SF State faculty and students that encourages consumers and industries to reuse textiles that are often discarded quickly and improperly.

The film offered alternatives to textile waste in an effort to raise awareness and incite a change in behavior. Textile waste, a problem rarely acknowledged by many consumers and industries, is a serious issue because of its huge impact on the environment.

Hamid Khani, a professor of Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts at SF State and a contributor to the making of the film, stressed the importance of its message under the current administration.

“We are dealing with an administration, which is denying climate change,” said Khani. “The head of the EPA nominee is actually a major climate denier so it is becoming more relevant because … the political atmosphere is not supporting sustainability.”  

“The world is becoming increasingly crowded, with population increase productions are coming through the pipeline faster — we have what we call fast fashion and we are consuming irresponsibly,” so and so said.

The textiles the film refers to include clothing, footwear, accessories, bedding, towels, tablecloths and many other material goods. More than 20 million tons of textile consumer and industrial waste are generated every year in the U.S., making the fashion industry the second largest contributor to waste, according to the film.

Material Rebellion reports that 95 percent of textiles are recyclable, but Americans throw away about 80 pounds per person each year. The fashion industry can make a big impact on sustainability by reusing materials and informing customers about how to properly dispose of textiles.

“For a long time people have found the fashion industry very wonderful and entertaining, but what’s coming up more and more and more is cities and countries trying to deal with all the consumer waste and realizing how much of it is clothing that people no longer wear,” Gail Baugh, an adjunct professor at SF State and film contributor said.

The film explains that people aren’t often aware of how to recycle this kind of waste. No textile is biodegradable, but there is an enormous aftermarket available for textiles to be reused.

The film states that it is sensible to have a sustainable business not only for the environment, but also for the business itself. There is a huge value in textiles, from the material to the craftsmanship, which goes into making a textile product. The film emphasizes that people need to realize the value of the materials they throw away and encourages a change in behavior.

Businesses like Goodwill help stymie the textile waste problem by accepting donations in any condition, extending the life of these products through resale of textile mills.

Constance Ulasewicz, a professor at SF State explained that Goodwill will accept anything clean, including old underwear and that lone sock.

“They will take it — they will also sort it so it goes to textile raggers that create rags that are used in the industry for cleaning purposes,” Ulasewicz said.

Students at SF State are finding ways to reuse textiles in the designing of new clothes, utilizing used tablecloths to makes dresses, shirts and bags. The film explains that textile recycling needs to become mainstream and accepted by retailers.

There are things in everyone’s closet they can reuse or repurpose. In San Francisco, where 4.5 percent of waste is textiles, according to Baugh, the goal is to get to zero textile waste by the year 2020.

The professor encourages people to learn to sew button on and repair pant hems, or find someone who can do those things for you.

“Think before we throw,” Ulasewicz said. “So it’s just looking at what we have and seeing how we can kind of repair it.”

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