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How one Kiwi business is ensuring their products don’t end up in landfill.
Kia ora, welcome to Future Proof. I’m Ellen, thanks for joining me this week.
Image credit: Little Yellow Bird.
Thirty kilograms per person, chucked. Between 100,000 and 200,000 tonnes, dumped. There are a bunch of different figures – but any way you look at it, New Zealand’s textile waste problem is gigantic.
It’s a problem that played on the mind of Samantha Jones, CEO and founder of sustainable clothing business Little Yellow Bird. “We started thinking about what happened to our products at the end of their useful life,” says Jones. Anything was better than festering in a rubbish dump. So even though they didn’t have a definitive solution right away, Little Yellow Bird began accepting old products back.
Now, the Wellington-based business has diverted 14 tonnes of textiles from landfill. Last year, with the support of eight partners, they sent a 20-foot-container-load of natural fibres to Europe, where it was recycled using fibre-to-fibre technology. This is a chemical recycling technique that turns old textiles into new fibres, that in turn can be used to manufacture new textile products. Making new clothes from your old ones. It’s a new method, and not available in New Zealand. They’re also exploring local textile recycling options, which tend to be mechanical in nature: shredding up the fabric, which can then be repurposed as products like insulation or carpet underlay.
Little Yellow Bird has also launched a textile take-back bag for individuals, so you can recycle your own natural-fibre clothes (like cotton, hemp, linen and wool) that aren’t LYB-branded. The bag costs $20 to cover the costs of grading, sorting, de-zipping and de-buttoning the items in preparation for their second life. Synthetic textiles, like polyester, aren’t accepted. “Because polyesters are made with oil, and have a lot of issues like microfibre shedding, we decided we didn’t want to provide a solution for those products, because we just don’t think they should exist in the first place,” Jones explains.
With 800 take-back bags sold, Jones says they’ve proved consumers will pay to keep clothes out of landfill. “Now we can start investing our resources into figuring out what we can create with it,” she says.
But ultimately, Jones would love to see legislation that makes it difficult – or expensive – to dump textiles in landfill. “All of a sudden there would be an incentive, you’d have an industry looking into solutions and innovation. Currently, it’s more expensive to recycle than to send to landfill. If that switched, I think you’d get a lot of behaviour change.”
Little Yellow Bird runs informal volunteering sessions where you can help sort donated clothes and learn about textile recycling. Send them an email if you’d like to give it a go.
More on clothing sustainability in this previous Future Proof: Three easy ways to ease off the fast fashion accelerator.
It’s Conservation Week! This year we are asking Aotearoa to take action for nature.
There’s always something you can do to help our environment and the native species that make New Zealand special.
You could join a predator free group in your backyard, pick up rubbish in your favourite place or donate a trap to a community group.
Click here to pick your action for nature.
More protection for Hauraki Gulf as latest report paints dire picture
Last week the government announced 12 new “high protection zones” for the Hauraki Gulf, alongside the expansion of two marine reserves. This will bring effective protection of the marine park from 0.3% up to 6%. James Frankham of New Zealand Geographic has a considered analysis of the new bill, labelling it “a toe on the start line” for recovery of the Gulf. Meanwhile, advocacy groups are shocked that the bill would still allow bottom trawling in defined areas, rather than instituting an outright ban on the practice that damages seafloor habitats. The announcement came ahead of the release of the latest State of the Gulf report, which fittingly featured a dead scallop shell on the cover. While stories of scallop beds collapsing, penguins starving and milky-flesh snapper point to “continued ecological collapse”, the Hauraki Gulf Forum co-chairs say there is hope yet for the ecosystem.
What fuelled Hawaii's horrifying wildfires
A perfect storm of hurricane winds, tinder-dry invasive grasses, and flash drought led to deadly wildfires that wrought devastation on the usually lush island of Maui, AP News reports. One expert tells the outlet that climate change is triggering “unpredictable or unforeseen combinations” of conditions that ultimately lead to extreme fire weather. The stories and scenes coming out of Hawaii are heartbreaking, so here’s one tiny beacon of hope: the Maui Bird Conservation Center is home to critically endangered birds found nowhere else on Earth, and staff managed to save it from encroaching flames.
Sponge city concept key to Aotearoa’s climate adaptation
New Zealand’s urban areas need to stop concreting up surfaces and retrofit more blue-green sponginess to adapt to extreme rainfall events, according to a new report from the Helen Clark Foundation and WSP. Current hard infrastructure (i.e. ageing stormwater pipes) isn’t cutting it, but we can look to more ecological approaches to deal with influxes of rain. A sponge city model would require councils to plan for and provide green spaces, encourage “upwards” development and retrofit absorbent surfaces into neighbourhoods, the report says. Installing rain gardens, rainwater tanks and replacing lawns with trees are all ways to up the sponginess of your own patch. “‘Sponge Cities’ offer a way to increase resilience to intensifying rainfall. But they also offer us a model for cities that are more beautiful, less polluted, and more hospitable, both to humans and wildlife,” writes report author Kali Mercier. More on solutions to extreme weather in this previous edition of Future Proof.
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Image credit: Murphy Peoples/Te Papa.
To finish this edition, Te Papa posed the following hypothetical to visitors and asked them how they felt about the idea: “We should spend more on funding climate change resilience, and less on public services like education, defence, or health.” The image above shows how people responded. How cool is it to see so many people hopeful and excited? Exhibition experience developer Murphy Peoples digs deeper into the data on the Te Papa blog. The question is part of an interactive display called Te Au | The Current, which has been posing tricky environmental hypotheticals since 2020. Even if you can’t visit Te Papa in person, you can still add your two cents to the latest scenario on the online version of the Current.
Currently feeling hopeful,
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