• Simrita Kaur

Can we compost our fabric? Yes, we can!

Updated: Jul 8

Atacama Desert, Chile

Last year, our screens and feeds were flooded with horrific images from the Atacama Desert, in Chile, of its newest dunes. No, not dunes made of sand but of piles and piles of discarded and unsold clothing from across the world! If most of these are made of synthetic fibres, we are in deep, deep trouble, for these will not decompose for a long, long time!

On the other hand, fabrics made of cotton, hemp, wool, linen and other natural fibres are biodegradable, low-impact and more sustainable. We all know that, but what does it mean? Well, these natural fibres have a rather excellent way of going back to the soil. Now, isn’t that great!

There’s no time like the present to teach your child about what happens to their clothes once they have been thrown away or why certain kinds of fabrics are good for the environment and for them, in the long run. But how can we break down decomposition or ‘going back to Earth’ for children? And help them separate the ‘good fibres’ from the ‘bad fibres’? Young children love to observe and learn. So, it’s a great idea to bring some science into it.

Download, print and help your child fill this worksheet, so they have a record of what they learnt!

life of my clothes
Download PDF • 471KB

Once your child’s gotten a hang of what fabrics decompose and which ones don’t, you can begin to create circularity at home. It goes without saying, this starts with discouraging throwaway culture to whatever extent possible. Mend clothes with your children and show them there is beauty in things that are repaired. As good as new is not the objective–-things don’t lose their beauty or functionality just because of a slight tear or because they’ve been darned over with a patch.

But what about garments that are beyond mending? Fabrics that you and your child have figured, from the above experiment, that cannot be composted, need to be disposed of responsibly.

Compost the fabrics you now know can be composted. Here is a simple guide on how you can compost your fabric at home.

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Simrita Kaur has been a teacher and remains one at heart, though she now works more on curriculum planning, pedagogy and teacher training. She holds Masters degrees in both History and Education. Adopted by three cats, Simrita has a special interest in early years education for little humans, with a focus on foundational literacy, mathematical thinking, and social sciences pedagogy and how children learn.