Upcycled products are made with vintage items, secondhand fashion, textile throw-aways, or reclaimed materials. Given the sizable contribution the fashion industry makes to landfills every day, upcycling is an eco shopping solution that solves many environmental problems.

Truckloads of Textiles Go to the Dump

When you put your trash bag on the curb every week, do you ever think about the textiles you’re tossing in with your kitchen and bathroom waste? According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, most of us don’t think about our textile trash. If you can believe it, in 2010, 8% of the solid waste collected in the US was old clothing! That’s a lot of trendiness ending up in the trash.

Fast Fashion’s Contribution

Consumers’ desire for a constant flow of fresh fashion trends drives many of us to throwaway more old clothing than any other generation. And only 15% of all clothing that people toss each year is recycled.  And that’s just the icing on the cake. Your fashion contributed to the problem long before you threw it out.

Most manufacturers actually plan to waste 8% and 15% of all the fabric they use in the form of offcuts, surplus, or incorrect material! That’s a lot of textiles – and money – to just throw into landfills.

And when we send textiles to the landfill, we contribute to climate change. Organic materials, like cotton, wool, and leather break down in the oxygen-starved landfill environment, generating a greenhouse gas emission known as methane. Methane is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat on our planet.

Synthetic fabrics, like polyester and viscose are no better than natural fibers like cotton and wool. Synthetic textiles:

  • Take decades or centuries to break down in a landfill environment, which means the resources they represent don’t get returned to the earth for hundreds of years in some cases.
  • Are made of petroleum by-products so throwing them away represents a huge waste of non-renewable resources. And to make new synthetic fibers, we increase our dependence on foreign oil.
  • Release dangerous toxins from dyes and chemicals into soil and water as they break down.

Clearly throwing our used textiles into the landfill is not an eco-friendly way to handle our fast fashion waste. Fear not, for not all is lost. There are many great ways to reduce our waste and decrease the impact our shopping habits have on our environment. Up-cycling is one such way to reuse our waste in new and exciting trends.

Upcycled Fashion’s Solution

Upcycling can be the most efficient way to control fashion waste by reusing things instead of creating new ones. To understand upcycling, it may be helpful to compare it to recycling. In recycling, we might take waste materials like soda bottles and melt them down to make other plastic products. This process is good because it makes use of waste materials. But upcycling is better. In this process, we take existing products or materials that were considered waste and, without altering them substantially, we cycle them “up” into something new.

Confused about the difference between upcycled and recycled fashion?  Consider the four ways fashion is repurposed:

  • Immediate reuse (i.e. thrift store purchases): You likely know this type of recycling as secondhand, thrift store, or consignment shop fashion. Though no actual recycling takes place, this is a type of recycled fashion since it involves taking someone’s cast-off fashion and “re-cycling” or “re-using” it into your own wardrobe.
  • Mechanical textile recycling: This process involves shredding discarded textiles, spinning the fibers into new threads, and using those threads to make new recycled fabrics. The finished fabrics are then used to create brand new clothing and fashion.
  • Upcycling fashion through modification: Think of this as a conversion process. It involves taking an existing piece of fashion and revamping it into something new with no need for chemical breakdown. For instance, you turn your left over watermelon seeds into beads for a necklace, turn your old t-shirt into a necklace, or turn a pair of jeans into a handbag. The finished product often has no striking resemblance to the original.
  • Upcycling fashion with remnants: In this process, rather than modifying a complete, existing garment or accessory, our artisans take waste from the fashion industry –like textile remnants or bits of leftover leather and – and upcycle them into a brand new item.

Step Up with Upcycled

We love recycled fashion, too, but comparatively speaking, upcycling is the superior choice when it comes to repurposing waste. It uses less energy, requires less water and chemicals, diverts waste from landfills and helps combat global warming. The great news is that the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART) estimates that 95% of all textiles can be recycled or reused. That means there are plenty of opportunities for upcycling old fashion into pieces that make a style statement and an eco-statement.

Upcycled fashion is incredibly creative. Because many of Hearts’ upcycled pieces are refashioned using unique materials and embellishments, most are custom-designed, one item at a time. That means you get to wear a one of a kind item that’s unique to you. So forget boring fast fashion. Upcycled fashion is virtually guaranteed to make you feel special!

Find out more about how Hearts designers upcycle all kinds of materials. 

Material - Upcycled- hearts.com.pdf