Household textile waste is the worst for the environment


Textiles such as clothing and shoes are the most environmentally damaging type of household waste in Scotland, according to a new study.

Zero Waste Scotland’s carbon metric report tracks the full lifecycle impact of items thrown away by Scottish homes.

It found that textiles made up only 4% by weight of what was thrown away in 2021, but were responsible for 32% of the carbon footprint generated by household waste.

The environmental organization said Scots must “rethink our consumption of goods”.

The report looked at the emissions generated by the products that Scottish households consume and then throw away.

This included the extraction of the raw materials that make up those products and their manufacture – processes that often take place abroad. The emissions from the removal of household waste via landfill or incineration were also examined.

The textile category included clothes, shoes and carpets – clothes and shoes accounted for about 80%.

Zero Waste Scotland said the clothes we buy are often produced through long supply chains generating large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions at every stage.

This may include the production of the yarn or fabric and then the manufacture of the final product, such as washing and dyeing. Greenhouse gases are created in the country of production at each of these steps.

There was a slight overall increase in the overall carbon footprint of Scottish household waste, up 0.9% on last year.

Zero Waste Scotland said the increase in textile waste was the main driver of this.

Food waste was the second largest contributor to the carbon impact of household waste – accounting for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, but only 18% of household waste by weight.

Iain Gulland, CEO of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “If we are serious about tackling climate change, we need to rethink our consumption of goods and materials.

“The average Scot consumes more than twice the amount of sustainable materials per year, and our disposable culture encourages that approach. It’s an environmental imperative that we turn this around.”

The Scottish government-funded agency encourages Scots to “do things differently” and look to the circular economy model – where people are encouraged to reuse, donate and recycle products.

Mr Gulland added: “The circular economy gives us the opportunity to do things differently without compromising quality of life, creating an economy that is better for people and the planet where goods and materials are valued and made to to last a long time.”

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