“Waste not, want not” has never been more true than in the crisis, and clothing and shoes are no exception when it comes to getting as much use as possible out of everything we buy and consume.
Items of clothing and footwear that have been sitting around in closets for months or even years waiting for an unlikely comeback and which are still in good condition are usually handed down to friends, family or acquaintances in straitened circumstances or donated to programs supporting the poor or homeless, refugees, hospitals etc. But what a lot of people seem to forget is that even badly worn or tattered items can be recycled and repurposed: Fibers can be used to make new material, such as insulation, furniture stuffing or even paper, for example, while zippers and buttons can be reused.
Another benefit of recycling clothing and shoes is that it leads to energy savings and helps conserve raw materials and natural resources while also reducing the volume of trash that ends up at landfills. There are no precise figures on the percentage of clothing and shoes that end up in the garbage in Greece, but in the USA it is estimated at 4.5 percent and in Western Europe at 3.5 percent. Other studies say that some 10 million tons of fabric ends up in the trash every year in America and Europe together. In fact, some environmental groups in Europe believe that intensive recycling could result in just 5 percent of household waste ending up at landfills.
To this end, a joint ministerial decision is currently in the works in Greece to introduce clothing recycling points across the country, with 18 municipalities having already taken the initiative to place special red bins where the public can deposit clothing and shoes. The initiative is a partnership with a private company called Recycom, which has provided 400 bins to the 18 municipalities and is responsible for collecting the items that are donated for recycling.
“In 2015 we collected more than 300 tons of material, the bulk of which was sent to a recycling company in Germany,” says Vangelis Arapis, a representative for Recycom. “Our business has been growing constantly since we started in 2012. We provide food to free supermarkets operated by the municipalities we work with, as well as good-quality clothing to poor families.”
Arapis stresses that citizens should not throw dirty or wet clothes or fabric scraps, or unpaired shoes into the red bins.