In the UK, we buy more than two million tonnes of textiles a year, throw half of it in landfill, and currently recycle only a quarter. Although we are becoming more aware of the economic, social and environmental impact of textile production, most of us have no idea of how the global textile recycling trade works or its impact. Demand for reusable second-hand clothing in developing economies is high, but less well-known are the recycling industries that destroy our castoff clothing in order to reclaim the fibres. The town of Panipat, in North India, is the current centre of this global ‘shoddy’ recycling industry. The work is dirty, labour intensive and the process has changed little since its invention in Yorkshire in 1813. Developing countries also constitute the main markets for the low-quality recycled products manufactured through this process.
These photographs and their captions explore both of these journeys in an effort to join the dots in what is otherwise an invisible global trade.
The second-hand clothing and recycling trades have to be understood as a global system, one where the dirtiest work is often done in marginal, unregulated places.
Clothing Recycled is a collaborative project between Anthropologist Lucy Norris and Photographer Tim Mitchell.