Posted on 7th October 2021

Costume Recycling – Why’s it important?

Costume production is an often overlooked element of a film or TV production's carbon footprint. However, as our friends at CAMA explain in this article, there's plenty which can be done to reduce it...

In recent years there has been an increase in awareness that the film industry is traditionally wasteful and creates high levels of emissions. One contributing element to this wasteful industry, that is often overlooked, is costume production.

Recent years have also seen an increase in the awareness that the fashion industry is also very damaging. While people are generally aware that fast fashion is bad, they might not know why specifically, but they know it’s not all good.

Costuming is where the two industries, film and fashion, overlap. There are many reasons why the process of costume production isn’t very environmentally sustainable, but don’t despair, there are ways it is becoming more so, and that’s where CAMA comes in.

Before we tell you about CAMA’s work, it is worth sharing why it’s important, and that means scratching the surface on how unsustainable costuming can be. For example, for contemporary productions, costumes are normally bought rather than made, depending on the character and the production budget, this often means buying from high street shops and fast fashion brands. These brands use low-paid labour, damaging chemicals in their dying processes, and synthetic fibres. Damaging chemicals often leak into local water supplies and synthetic fibres release microplastics into the water every time a garment is washed. The garment industry is believed to be the second most polluting industry in the world, and a high number of costumes are sourced from the guiltiest industry players.

Even if costumes are made by the costuming department, materials could be sourced from suppliers with similar problems in their supply chain. There are also likely to be other problems, like waste in the form of spare costumes that are never used, or fabric offcuts.

Another factor that influences the unsustainability of costuming is how they are disposed of. On big budget productions, such as those that are part of a famous franchise, costumes are often stored, displayed or sold as a collectable item. However, with most other productions there are limited ways to get rid of costumes. Often costume designers or productions are forced to keep and store their own costumes. The costumes then aren’t reused by other productions, resulting in more being made in the future, creating more waste.

CAMA offers a more sustainable solution. They organise the collection and distribution of costumes to make sure they are reused by another production and avoid dusty storage rooms or worse – landfill. One of the best ways to make sure this happens is to donate the items directly to another production, or to a costume rental house.

One of their most recent recipients of costumes is Camden Costumes. Camden Costumes is comprised of a team of talented makers who create contemporary, fantasy or historical costumes for film and TV. They also have a growing collection of items that are for rental. CAMA have been able to donate costumes that are no longer wanted by productions, to Camden Costumes, so that they can be reused and repurposed in the industry.

CAMA have also donated costumes like this one, along with spare materials, to the London Screen Academy. This means that the costume designers of the future can study costume without needing to buy new materials

Having recently come into contact with CAMA as a part of their recycling scheme we are thrilled to be able to help reduce landfill and waste as this is a big part of our business ethos. Film and TV can be a very wasteful industry and we think it is important to take steps to make a change and we are always looking for ways in which to do so.

We have been very well treated and always find that the staff at CAMA are efficient, professional and friendly. Darren [Jones] gets in touch if he comes across anything he thinks we might be interested in, and is quick to arrange for things to be moved and the guys who deliver in the truck are really helpful and nice. Honestly, I have nothing bad to say, we even got a personal visit!
Please keep up the good work!

— Mariane Roesdahl, Director at Camden Costumes Ltd

If you would like to find out more about how CAMA’s sustainable solutions could help with your recycling and redistribution needs, please visit their website.

CAMA are one of albert’s event partners, whose generosity helps keep our events free to attend