Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mind Your Waste: Textile Recycling
We all know how important it is to recycle. For most of us, making sure our cans, bottles, and paper products make it to the blue bins is as second nature as brushing our teeth in the morning.  But what about recycling our unwanted textiles? While many of us would take great measures to ensure that every scrap of aluminum, glass, or plastic we touch goes safely into the recycling pile, we might toss our clothes and shoes into the trash without a second thought, not realizing the consequences…

Textile Waste
Did you know that around 11 million tons of textiles end up in landfills every year (according to USAgain)? If not, don’t feel too bad; 78% of people don’t know that, and as a result, textiles continue to be thrown away.  As a matter of fact, in "Fast Clothes' Versus 'Green Clothes,” by Elisabeth Rosenthal, an article from The New York Times, it is reported that the average American throws out almost 65 pounds of clothes and shoes each year, and only 15% of that is recovered for reuse or recycling. What’s worse is that nearly half of us (48%) throw out perfectly reusable textiles.

Impact on the Environment
Textile waste doesn’t just mean more waste in landfills; it is also a major strain on our natural resources. Per the Natural Resources Defense Council, the average t-shirt uses at least 700 gallons of water during the manufacturing process—that’s 140 water cooler jugs! Tossing a shirt in the trash tosses all this water out with it. But textile waste doesn’t only exhaust our precious resources; it is also a major contribution to pollution. Production of just one pound of textiles results in the emission of more than seven pounds of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur, and chlorine, just to name a few (USAgain)!

What Is the Solution?
Recycling! There are a few great ways to approach textile recycling. Thrift and consignment stores, for example, are a perfect way to thin out your closet while reducing waste and pollution. Because they are often locally owned, they are also a great way to support the economy in your community. Another easy way to do your part and support your community is to make drop-offs to clothing donation bins in your area.  Planet Aid is one great way to locate a donation bin near you. You can also check in with your local U.S. homeless shelter and ask about making a drop off.  Even another great solution is contacting your city’s recycling department to ask that textile recycling be added to your city’s program-- making textile recycling convenient a sure-fire way of ensuring its success.

But maybe one of the best ways we can do our share is to be conscientious consumers. Instead of buying high volumes of cheap, poorly made pieces that immediately come apart; we can make fewer, better quality purchases that will last longer. Bit by bit, each of these small changes will help make a huge difference.


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