Old is new again: Qatari teenagers give second life to worn clothes | Environment

Doha, Qatar – A group of high school students in Qatar are setting an eco-conscious trend by turning worn and damaged clothing into new fashion items, such as bags, face masks and rubber bands.

The Upcycle project drew attention to the greater need for sustainability, while also highlighting the huge waste problem in the fashion industry which, according to research presented at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2018, a global event focused on sustainability, generates approximately 92 million tons of waste material dumped in landfills.

The consequences of this waste for the environment are devastating: man-made fibers such as polyester take 20 to 200 years to decompose.

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In February, the students won the Global Act Impact award as part of the Hague International Model of the United Nations in Qatar [Courtesy: Project Upcycle]

Students at Birla Public School in Qatar are on a mission to raise awareness of the environmental effects of “fast fashion”.

Under the slogan “Undo, Uplift, Upcycle”, the students wanted to highlight the problems in the “fast fashion” industry, where mass market retailers use low-quality and dangerous materials to meet the growing demand for the latest trends and make more profits.

“We knew that ‘fast fashion’ wasn’t something that could go away easily, especially when so many people rely on it for clothing because of its affordability,” said Nandini Mathur, head of design and product development at Project Upcycle.

“But such clothing is designed and made for short-term use, hence the large quantities of clothing that end up in landfills every year.

“We wanted to create something that takes advantage of that waste material, such as old and torn clothes, and create objects that people can use for years. Making the most of every piece and making it practical,” added Mathur.

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The Upcycle Project team works with sustainable online store Ecosouk Qatar to sell their products [Courtesy: Project Upcycle]

In January 2022, the team began collecting old and torn clothes, mostly from friends and family. As their campaign gained momentum, they began to receive donations. They also looked for clothes that were rejected by charities because they were damaged.

Students create designs for bags and other items and give them to The Sewing Studio, a local tailoring company.

They collaborated with the sustainable online store Ecosouk Qatar to sell their products.

They “wanted to bring the upcycling culture to Qatar,” Mathur said, adding that the fashion industry is “one of the biggest sources of global warming and is often overlooked in conversations about sustainability and other green issues.”

“Our goal was to create something that would start a conversation and contribute to a solution,” she added.

In February of last year, the students won the Global Act Impact Award (GAIA) for their project, as part of The Hague International Model United Nations (THIMUN) Qatar.

Fast fashion and its effect

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said the “fast fashion” industry is the second most polluting industry in the world.

Data from the UN Environment Program (UNEP) from 2018 show that about 7,500 liters of water are used to make one pair of jeans – as much as the average person consumes in seven years.

The same data shows that this trillion-dollar industry is also responsible for about 10 percent of the global carbon footprint, more than all international flights and shipping combined.

In addition to its environmental impact, the fashion industry is also responsible for poor, often appalling working conditions, especially for women, as 80 percent of the workforce throughout the supply chain is female, according to a 2018 UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) report. .

Articles created by the Upcycle project team
Students say they want to highlight problems in the ‘fast fashion’ industry [Courtesy: Project Upcycle]

In the center of attention is consumer awareness

Although awareness of the need for sustainable fashion is growing, consumers don’t always think about buying recycled products.

“Most people have a very negative mindset about using recycled products in the initial stages,” said Ivana Thomas of Project Upcycle. “The main question that goes through their minds is, ‘Why should I use products made from old, used fabric?'”

Students talk about sustainability when they set up independent booths at various community events while motivating and educating customers about sustainable fashion, said Prashansa Oruganti, the project’s social media manager.

She noted that people are often “surprised by the fact that the quality of the old recycled material was identical to that of the standard”.

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