HAVE you ever wondered what happens to your clothes when they are donated to charity or sent off to be recycled?
If the clothing and textiles end up at Life Line Clothing Malaysia Sdn Bhd, those items are given a second life, depending on their condition and function.
“The items are processed in a clean and dry method, and sorted by our workers into different categories suited for the world market,” said Life Line Clothing Malaysia Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Dale Warren.
Established in 2013, Life Line Clothing is a textile recycling company that collects and supplies excess or used textiles from Malaysia and overseas.
“Wearable garments, shoes, bags and linen are sorted then exported to developing countries in Africa and the Pacific nations, where they are sold at retail outlets as second-hand clothing,” said Warren.
“The unwearable items are cut up into rags and sold to industries as cleaning cloths.
“If they are too damaged, the textiles are sent to a different factory for the materials to be broken down into fibres for blankets or made into biofuel to power industrial boilers and generators.”
He said Life Line Clothing tries to avoid sending items to landfills, although it has no choice when it comes to “odd things” such as a single shoe or broken handbag.
The factory based in Port Klang deals with close to 200 tonnes of textiles a week, of which about 45% can be used as wearable garments.
“We also collaborate with companies, local councils and charity organisations by providing the logistics and infrastructure for their textile recycling programmes, as well as to conduct awareness programmes on environmental and recycling issues,” said Warren.
“This includes providing and maintaining the collection bins, conducting regular bin collection and educating the public on the various aspects of recycling textiles.”
For charity organisations such as Malaysian Association for the Blind and National Cancer Council, he said Life Line Clothing works out a programme to help them finance their causes.
“Life Line Clothing focuses on logistics collection programme and grading facility.
“Our affiliate Australian Textiles Trading Malaysia deals with the import and export of recycled textiles, while Best Bundle is a retail shop selling some of the wearable items we have processed,” said Warren.
“What sets Life Line Clothing apart is that other facilities tend to recycle only what is most economical to them. They work independently can support their own local communities, but do not have the resources to deal with fabric scraps or damaged clothes.”
Warren noted that recycling trends have changed over the years and would continue evolving.
“Two years ago, we sorted clothing into 120 categories. But now we are at more than 280 categories!” he said.
For example, lingerie and swimwear are sorted based on size, elasticity, stains, sponge thickness and underwire, or whether they are shapewear, sports bra, matching or non-matching pairs.
“In Malaysia, people tend to wear clothing longer, so the clothes sent for recycling are more worn out. It is also difficult to sell off traditional clothing overseas,” said Warren.
“In the West, it tends to be a consumer- driven market where some clothing are worn only for one season.
“But people are making more informed decisions and are more conscious about the value of the garments they buy.
“In general, the volume of clothing sent for recycling has increased as the current generation tends to discard clothing after a short use or due to minor wear and tear, compared to earlier generations that would sew or fix clothes to make them last longer.”
On recycling and environmental trends in Malaysia, Warren said that while the recycling mindset was ingrained within the local community, take-up was at a slower pace.
Acknowledging that Life Line’s recycling bins are sometimes treated as dumpsites, he said: “We address it by working with the community on bin locations or adjust pickup frequency.
“There is no direct solution for the problem. It is about dealing with the matter positively by using different strategies.
“It is like dealing with graffiti – you need to manage the issue properly.”