By Rubendran Sathupathy
In conjunction with Zero Waste Earth Store, INTI International University recently installed fabric recycling bins near the Academic Block and at hostel areas to encourage students and staff to donate their textiles.
Zero Waste Earth Store is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) located in Shah Alam that collaborated with Life Line Clothing to segregate clothes and fabrics.
They hired single mothers, disabled people (OKU), and low-income groups (B40) to sew the fabric into new apparel like purses, pouches, blankets, bags, and wallets. This helped to reduce the number of clothes in landfills.
Dr. Diana Wong and Mr. Roberto Calleja, senior lecturers at the Faculty of Business and Communications (FBC), spearheaded this initiative to combat fast fashion.
“Fast fashion refers to companies like H & M and Cotton On [and Shein] which reduce their designs to produce more clothes, this leads to people buying new clothes, especially during festivals since they do not want to wear the same old outfits,” explained Dr. Diana.
Because of fast fashion, it is estimated that 2 million kg of unwanted textiles are thrown away as waste every single day. 95% of those textiles can be donated or recycled but instead they end up in a landfill.
“This would not be a problem if the clothes are made of cotton as they disintegrate,” said Dr. Diana. “However, garments made of materials such as nylon or polymer contain plastic materials that are not biodegradable and thus need to be donated.
“As the saying goes ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’.”
Dr. Diana and Mr. Roberto, together with INTI’s Administration and Facilities Management (AFM) identified the Academic Block and hostel area as the most suitable locations to place the bins after careful consideration.
She said it needed to be in a place that is protected from the elements yet easy and convenient enough for the students and staff to see and access.
In the future, she hoped to mount another bin in the dining hall for hostel students and expand the project to include e-waste bins.
The idea for the recycling bin came to her in October 2022 during the fashion show at INTI’s Environment Day.
“I started thinking about fabric waste; the number of clothes we dispose of every year and how we can reduce it,” she said.
She scoured social media for material recycling companies and discovered two: Kloth and Zero Waste.
“I reached out to them and Zero Waste responded first. They provided the necessary information and even offered to come and install the bin for free despite the distance. We only paid RM 50 to customize it,” she said.
In November, Dr. Diana pitched her plan to INTI’s management and Ms. Wong Siew Fong, Pro Vice Chancellor of General Affairs at INTI.
“They were very supportive and approved the proposal,” she recalled. “I even prepared a presentation to show them but there was no need for it.”
Dr. Diana believed this is because it is in line with the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and INTI’s University Social Responsibility (USR).
She credited Mr. Roberto for helping her propagate the platform immensely as its partner and co-founder.
“We obtained the first bin on 3rd January and he started sharing it on social media to raise awareness. The response and growth have been gratifying, especially with the encouragement of our supportive colleagues just in time for Chinese New Year.”
Chinese New Year is an important occasion since people usually purchase new clothes and discard their old ones to symbolize the new beginning of the New Year.
“By providing the recycling bin, I hope individuals realize they have the option to recycle and give their clothes a new life. In this way, we can all contribute to saving the environment,” concluded Dr. Diana.