This is the current state of textile waste in The Netherlands and abroad

By Nora Maas

The problem with textile waste is getting bigger and bigger. Most of the clothing that we throw away ends up at landfills and are causing a lot of damage to the environment. Let’s have a look at the stats of the current situation in The Netherlands and how the problem continues abroad.

Textile waste in The Netherlands
Research from the CBS has shown that in 2019 5.438 kiloton of household textiles circulate in The Netherlands, in 2015 this was 10% less. Can you imagine how much textile there is only in The Netherlands? Get ready for more numbers, because these are the facts about the textiles that we throw away.

In 2019, 554 kilotons of textiles were thrown away as waste or exported as second-hand items. In 2019, 86 kilotons of textiles were collected separately via the municipalities. In addition, 174 kilotons of textiles were thrown away via residual waste. The textiles that ended up in the residual waste were only reusable or recyclable for 58%.

Organizations such as Sympany collect textiles. Watch our documentary ‘FULL CIRCLE‘ to see how big the problem really is.

Through the years the quality of the clothes we buy has become worse. This results in people wearing the clothes for a shorter time because it wears out faster. Another problem that comes with that, is that the clothing that is made of lower quality is less recyclable. Let it be clear that it is time to change the system. 

Watch the documentary 'FULL CIRCLE'

What can we do about this?
Politicians also see the growth of textile waste as a problem. So they made really ambitious plans for realizing a circular economy. The goal is to be 50% circular before 2030 and to be 100% circular in 2050. To reach this, the government has decided that in 2023 clothing producers who market clothing in The Netherlands are becoming responsible for the collection, recycling and reuse of the clothing. Step by step, more and more innovations are being introduced to achieve the plans the government has made to counteract textile waste.

If you want to know more about circular fashion or became curious about what you can do to help, check out our article about circular fashion here.

Step by step, more and more innovations are being introduced to achieve the plans the government has made to counteract textile waste.

The problem abroad
In our documentary FULL CIRCLE we show what happens with the clothing in The Netherlands after you discard them. Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t stop in The Netherlands and continues abroad. For example, when charity shops can’t sell the garments, tonnes of textiles are being exported to countries like Ghana. Every single day new ships enter the harbor to deliver new bales of clothes. In Ghana they call this type of clothing “Dead White Man’s Clothes’. When the clothing has arrived in the country it goes immediately to the markets in the capital of Ghana. Watch the video above to see where most of the clothing ends up when we throw them away. Unfortunately this is the reality of what often happens with our donated clothes.

The arrival of the clothing creates a lot of jobs for the local population. But not without risks. You have to pay upfront for a bale of clothing and you never know whether it’s trash or treasure. Since the rise of fast fashion the quality of the clothes that are arriving in Ghana are getting worse and worse. 

This results in that 60% of the imported clothes are reused and resold, which means that the other 40% is unusable and ends up in the landfills. The dumped textiles get swept up in the rain and end up choking the city’s waterways and beaches. Which brings the saline and fisherman in danger. 

Got blown away by the video of the situation in Ghana and want to expand the lifetime of your clothes? We made some tutorials with slow fashion designer Leonie Vlaar about how to repair clothes in a simple and easy way!