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Image: Samantha Ho / Eco-Business

Where do Singapore’s old ‘sexy shorts’ go?

Follow the region’s used textiles on a journey through sorting, upcycling and recycling as they are diverted from the landfills.

In a large warehouse near Port Klang, Malaysia, towering bales of used clothes are stacked more than 10 feet high. White A4-sized papers can be seen taped to each bale as content labels. On one, “sexy short” is scribbled repeatedly in marker ink, next to the word “Denver”.

The majority of these women’s shorts are likely to have come from Singapore, one of three countries that Life Line Clothing Malaysia (LLC Malaysia), a used textiles processing firm, collects discarded clothing from.

It is a statistical trend that LLC Malaysia has observed and that has stayed constant, so there is common understanding among factory workers that if an export order comes in for shorts, they should look to start sorting the piles from Singapore, instead of Malaysia and Australia, shared Dale Warren, chief executive officer of the firm.

The “sexy shorts” are then processed and could likely make up a shipment to Denver, Colorado in the United States, though Warren adds that there are times when the recycling effort is not that straightforward.

Understanding the intricacies of textile use and fashion preferences in different countries is crucial to LLC Malaysia’s operations, as the company aims to keep all the textiles it collects out of landfills. The company has established more than 500 categories into which used clothes are sorted, ranging from “long flower pants” and “men’s denim shorts” to “paired baju kurung”, a traditional Malay two-piece women’s costume, to ensure that they meet the specifications of each client. 

Eco-Business traces the journey of the collected textiles, from clothes, shoes, bags to stuffed toys, as they are sorted, processed and sold.

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