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  • Writer's pictureKate

How to compost clothing

Climate anxiety is definitely something I’ve slowly acquired and it’s not hard to do either. The news is full of politicians rolling back climate change policies and features telling us that we only have 12 years to sort this mess out - that’s WE the average person by the way, not the CEO’s drilling the ocean floor, burning the Amazon and pouring chemicals into the waterways and atmosphere.

Obviously with the help of the government and a few lifestyle changes we can hopefully fix the problem that we created. Do not underestimate the power of voting with your money. Shop local and smaller, as they tend to be more ethical, buy organic as much as possible and go easy on the plastic.

With clothing, you want to mend or upcycle where possible. Donating to charity doesn’t guarantee the re-use of that garment and many end up in landfills. Composting clothing is last on the list, but it is possible to do. I’ve been trying to compost vegetable peelings for a couple of years and haven’t yet managed to get the composition right. After some research composting clothing seems like something that most of us with access to soil can do if we must.

As the owner and designer of Hidden Beneath I really am trying to stay away from man-made fibres but due to the type of garments I create this ethos is very limiting, but I always try to do the best I can. The types of fabric that can be composted (including but not limited to) are: Cotton, silk, wool, cashmere, bamboo and hemp. These fibres can take from 1 week to up to a year to decompose with wool and bamboo taking up to 5 years, but these time frames are dependent on soil conditions. Leather can take much longer.

The first thing to do is remove the non-biodegradables such as buttons, zips and elastics. With Hidden Beneath Underwear it’s the elastic, sliders and O-rings from the bralettes that can be saved for a future mending project.

Next you need to shred the clothing into small pieces, the smaller the better as it will decompose faster.

After, bury the clothing where it won’t be disturbed by small humans or animals and then all you have to do is wait. If the garment was sewn with polyester thread, then after the fibres have broken down you will find the thread left over. Synthetic fibres won’t break down. Synthetic blends may do but you will probably find bits of synthetic fibres left over.

A final note, although leather is a natural fabric it is treated chemically, these chemicals will enter the soil as it decomposes which will not be helpful to plant life. The same goes for dry cleaned garments. The dry-cleaning chemicals which are toxic, stay on the clothing and again will enter the soil. These chemicals aren’t what you want if you are using this ground to grow food.

Happy composting!

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