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Can You Compost Sustainable Fabrics?

When it comes to sustainability, biodegradable fabrics are all the rage right now, but can you compost your eco-friendly clothes? The answer is not as simple as we’d hope.

Key Takeaways: So, what determines compostability?

Even though biodegradable materials return to nature and can disappear completely, they can often leave behind metal residue, which is why compostability is the ideal alternative. Compostable clothes are biodegradable, but with an added benefit — when they break down, they release valuable nutrients called humus into the soil that encourages the growth of trees and plants. 

Here’s a quick cheat sheet to help you know if you can compost your clothes or not: 

1. All natural

As a general rule of thumb, garments made from natural sources such as plant-based or animal-based fibres are compostable. These include cotton, silk, lyocell, wool, viscose, cashmere, hemp, bamboo, and linen

To know more about the biodegradability and compostability of these plant-based fibres, read our blogs on;

2. Pure or minimally treated

These natural fibres mustn’t be blended with other materials. Moreover, they should be chemically untreated (or treated with the bare minimum), without toxic dyes, not printed using PVC inks, and sustainably certified. All of these factors matter so that the clothes can biodegrade without leaving any harmful toxins behind.

3. No trims or frills

For added utility or decorative style, clothes often contain details like buttons, zippers, laces, facings (or adhesives on hemlines), and embroidered add-ons like sequins or acrylic threads. If these added materials aren’t biodegradable (like buttons made of corozo nuts), they must be taken off at all costs as they could end up clogging the compost pile. The threads used to stitch a garment are yet another missable detail that could hinder the composting process. Even sewing threads made from cotton can be wrapped around a polyester base to make it more sturdy — potentially a microplastic that pollutes the environment. One can only toss 100% cotton threads into a compost pile. 

4. Bonus: If clothes are Cradle to Cradle Certified®

Cradle to Cradle Certified® is a globally recognised measure of safer, more sustainable products made for the circular economy — where products are created for durability, reuse, remanufacturing, and recycling to keep them circulating in the economy. When clothes and their components are Cradle to Cradle Certified, they receive a basic, silver, gold or platinum rating based on a series of environmental and regeneration factors in the making of their products. So, the next time you purchase sustainable clothes that are C2C Certified, you can compost them yourself at home.

Curious to know more? Read our informative piece on Biodegradable Fabrics: Can We Really Compost Our Clothes?

Published by: Vibhuti Vazirani/ 2021-06-07

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