National Recycling Week is held every year in the second week of November, this year being Monday the 7th of November to Sunday the 13th of November. This initiative was established by Planet Ark in 1996 and is one of their flagship campaigns, aiming to educate and empower people on the importance of recycling every year. This year the campaign explores the idea that “Waste isn’t Waste until it is Wasted”. At Harry West Flags we can apply this idea to our flag manufacturing, and we have a newfound perception of our offcuts of flag fabric that are traditionally considered as ‘waste’. We realise that we have the power, to decide whether these offcuts go to landfill and become waste. Our ‘waste’ isn’t actually wasteful unless it is actually entering landfill, so we have chosen to not send it to landfill and to recycle it. The main way that we are going to be doing this, is starting to work with The Textile Recyclers Australia to recycle our offcuts as well as our customers used flags, meaning what we once thought of us ‘waste’ will be repurposed.
This year, National Recycling Week has encouraged us to take more initiative, and incorporate something into our business that we have been wanting to for a long time; having method of recycling our flags and our textile offcuts. The Textile Recyclers Australia are the perfect partner for us to work with to recycle our textiles waste, as they support us in our initiatives and help us reduce our impact on the environment. Their mission is to keep apparel and other textiles out of landfill, whilst investing in circular solutions for the textile industry. We have found that waste in the textile manufacturing industry is unfortunately quite common, but working with Textile Recyclers Australia will allow us to continue making flags in a more ethical way. Working with another business that have the same values as us, and who can help us in our goals of being more sustainable, is very rewarding. Keeping textiles out of landfill and knowing that our flags are being used wherever possible, in recycled products, extending their lifecycle and becoming something new, is something we value highly. We really resonate with Textile Recyclers Australia’s explanation of the importance of recycling textiles:
“Now more than ever, we have a duty of care to the generations that will succeed us. As we and generations before us have depleted the planet of resources. Our responsibility is to develop solutions to address the environment’s imbalance. The only way forward is to utilise a mixture of skill sets and innovations, recycle, upcycle and reuse materials.’’
We work with Textile Recyclers Australia for two different methods of recycling textiles. The first thing that we recycle are all our offcuts from the work room that get produced in the process of manufacturing flags. We are always cautious and try to minimise the number of offcuts that we produce, reusing them where possible, but there inevitably is some left over fabric that we do not have a use for. This is where the Textile Recyclers Australia comes in. This this type of textile waste is called ‘pre-consumer textiles’ and Textile Recyclers Australia recycle these onshore, with the fabric being mechanically shredded & used as furniture filler. Secondly, we encourage our customer to bring in their old, used flags when they are replacing them with new ones and we recycle these as well. After taking off any clips and eyelets, these are considered ‘post-consumer textiles’, and are sent to a different pathway to pre-consumer textile. These textiles are mechanically shredded and the recycled fibre is spun into yarn. The various yarn is used to make a variety of recycled products including totes, cushions, gloves, socks, rugs, throws, blankets, felts, underlay, insulation & even the stuffing which goes into motor vehicle seats. We love knowing that our flags don’t just go to landfill once they have served their purpose, and that they continue to be used for other purposes.
In addition to this new initiative, we have been practicing sustainability within our business for some time now. One way that we have been doing this is by using TerraCycle to recycle all of our soft plastics. All of our thread used in the sewing of our flags, is made from recycled polyester and we hope that one day, there will be the technology to create completely recycled fabric, which we would love to use to make our flags out of as well. In terms of packaging, we reuse and recycle boxes and other packing materials as much as possible and use eco-friendly compostable mailers from the brand Heaps Good. We are excited for what the future holds in terms of new sustainable options, and to continue incorporating as many sustainable practices into our business as possible.