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Clothing destined for landfill has been repurposed as part of a project to help Rototuna High School students reduce their impact on the environment.

Rototuna High School teachers Marcelle Coley and Suzette Ipsen saw an opportunity to blend textiles with social sciences, with a focus on how society has changed over the years.

Following a class visit with the Hamilton City Council Waste Minimisation Education Advisor Belinda Goodwin, a sustainability element was also added.

Coley said the students were really inspired by Goodwin’s talk and wanted to learn more about the link between landfills and the environment. They decided to study the impact fast fashion - cheap, mass-produced clothing - has on landfill.

Fast fashion is the third biggest manufacturing industry in the world and one of the major water pollutants. It is also criticised for underpaying garment workers and manufacturers in developing countries.

The industry is a major source of waste, with not only single items being thrown away by those who purchase them, but with many clothing companies allegedly trashing, rather than recycling or donating their unsold stock.

“We looked at different clothing companies, with some having as many as 52 ‘micro-seasons’ that change fashion trends. The cause and effect is we are just discarding barely worn clothes and sending them to landfill,” said Coley. 

“A lot of the kids had no idea where their clothing came from or the production process behind the clothes they wear. It’s beyond just choosing what you want from a shop – it’s about looking at supporting more sustainable brands.”

Coley said the practical element of the module for year nine students was to purchase and repurpose second-hand clothing, destined for landfill, into tote bags, dog beds and cushions.

The students shared their findings and creations with the school and their families.

“We wanted to provoke a response in others to make change. The students were loving the class and articulating what they were learning. There was a real clear depth of understanding and authenticity.

“You knew they were taking it away…digging deep about how they could influence the next generation of spenders.”

Coley shared the classrooms findings with Goodwin, as it was her talk to the class that inspired the students to link lifestyle and landfill.

Goodwin said she was “inspired and encouraged” by the students' enthusiasm to get involved in an environmental issue.

“Fighting fast fashion by shopping second hand or choosing sustainable brands is one practical and easy way we can help fight the landfill,” said Goodwin.

“In my role at Hamilton City Council I have this fantastic opportunity to really show what Hamilton City Council’s Waste Management and Minimisation Plan aims to achieve and how people can get involved. I am encouraged that this generation of spenders, even just this small group, are making choices that have a positive impact on the environment.”

To have the Hamilton City Council Waste Minimisation Education Advisor visit your group, or to arrange a visit to the Council’s Waste Minimisation Education Room, visit fightthelandfill.co.nz.    

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