The temptation to throw old clothing out is strong. It can be a hassle to recycle them and it is understandable why many to not even bother to try and simply throw them out instead. Unfortunately, this is a big problem.
About 85% of clothes which are discarded end up in landfill sites which is extremely bad for the planet. Decomposing clothes release a horrible collection of greenhouse gasses and other toxic gasses into the atmosphere. In addition, all the dyes and chemicals which are used in their production will leak out and enter the ground and water table. This is all on top of the materials and the large quantity of water which is used in the manufacture of clothes.
Approximately 300,000 tonnes of clothing was sent to landfill in the UK in 2016, which is a horrifying amount. In the USA the figure tops one million tonnes a year. Overall the situation does not appear to be improving, with an estimated 235 million items of clothing discarded in the UK over the Spring of 2017. Clearly this is an issue which we need to fix in our society. Luckily, some of our brightest and most creative people are on the case.
One of the most interesting potential solutions has been put forward by Ryan Yasin, a former student at Imperial College London whose origami clothes concept won the UK’s annual James Dyson award this year.
The problem Yasin was attempting to solve was in the arena of children’s clothing. On average a child will grow through seven sizes in their first two years at a cost of more than £2,000 to the parents and many discarded garments which mainly go into the bin.
Yasin’s origami clothes are made by utilising a negative Poisson’s ratio – put simply, materials which use this ratio, called dilational or auxetic materials, become thicker when stretched out and can expand in two different directions at the same time. By using a heat treatment system, Yasin was able to apply these properties to his garments which allowed them to stretch out to many times their original size whilst still maintaining their integrity.
The end result is a set of children’s clothes which are waterproof, can fit in your pocket, and will fit the same child from three months to three years old.
Innovative solutions to largely unseen problems are exactly the sort of thing which we will need in the future, and hopefully Yasin’s origami clothes will take off and inspire a new wave of inventors.