Rag & Bone “Textile Recycling 101”

The folks over at Waist Online have a detailed page with allot of useful information about Textile Recycling. They note that textile recycling originated in the Yorkshire Dales about 200 years ago. These days the ‘rag and bone’ men are textile reclamation businesses, which collect textiles for reuse (often abroad), and send material to the ‘wiping’ and ‘flocking’ industry and fibres to be reclaimed to make new garments. Textiles made from both natural and man-made fibres can be recycled.

Why Bother:

It is estimated that more than 1 million tons of textiles are thrown away every year, with most of this coming from household sources. Textiles make up about 3% by weight of a household bin. At least 50% of the textiles we throw away are recyclable, however, the proportion of textile wastes reused or recycled annually in the US is only around 20%.

Although the majority of textile waste originates from household sources, waste textiles also arise during yarn and fabric manufacture, garment-making processes and from the retail industry. These are termed post-industrial waste, as opposed to the post-consumer waste which goes to jumble sales and charity shops. Together they provide a vast potential for recovery and recycling.

 

Recovery and recycling provide both environmental and economic benefits. Textile recovery:

  • Reduces the need for landfill space. Textiles present particular problems in landfill as synthetic (man-made fibres) products will not decompose, while woollen garments do decompose and produce methane, which contributes to global warming.
  • Reduces pressure on virgin resources.
  • Aids the balance of payments as we import fewer materials for our needs.
  • Results in less pollution and energy savings, as fibers do not have to be transported from abroad.

Reclaiming fiber avoids many of the polluting and energy intensive processes needed to make textiles from virgin materials, including: –

  • Savings on energy consumption when processing, as items do not need to be re-dyed or scoured.
  • Less effluent, as unlike raw wool, it does not have to be thoroughly washed using large volumes of water.
  • Reduction of demand for dyes and fixing agents and the problems caused by their use and manufacture.

How, what and where of recycling textiles:

The majority of post-consumer textiles are currently collected by charities like The Salvation Army, Good Will and Chalk. Some charities, for example Good Will and The Salvation Army, sort collected material selling it on to merchants in the appropriate sectors.

Some postindustrial waste is recycled ‘in-house’, usually in the yarn and fabric manufacturing sector. The rest, aside from going to landfill or incineration, is sent to merchants.

Collection Method’s:

At present the consumer has the option of putting textiles in ‘clothes banks’, taking them to charity shops or having them picked up for a donation drive.

The Salvation Army is the largest operator of textile banks in the US. On average, each of these banks is estimated to collect about six tons of textiles per year. Combined with door-to-door collections, The Salvation Army’s textile recycling operations account for the processing of in excess of 17,000 tons of clothing a year. Clothes are given to the homeless, sold in charity shops or sold in developing countries in Africa, the Indian sub-continent and parts of Eastern Europe. Nearly 70% of items put into clothing banks are reused as clothes, and any un-wearable items are sold to merchants to be recycled and used as factory wiping cloths.

Processing and Outlets for Waste Textiles

All collected textiles are sorted and graded at a "Rag House" by highly skilled, experienced workers, who are able to recognize the large variety of fiber types resulting from the introduction of synthetics and blended fiber fabrics. Once sorted the items are sent to various destinations as outlined below:

Post industrial waste is often reprocessed in house. Clippings from garment manufacture are also used by fiber reclaimers to make into garments, felt and blankets.

Some selected items will be sold to the "Vintage Market" and reused by designers fashioning garments and bags from recovered items. Companies like Dust Factory Vintage grade the textiles even more to produce mixes that will sell in trendy Vintage Shops in te US, Japan and Europe, however this is a very small sector within the overall destinations of textiles. For more information on what happens with Vintage Clothing click here.

What You Can Do:

  • Take your used clothes to a textile bank. Contact the recycling officer in your local authority if there are no banks in your area and ask why; they may collect textiles through other means. Alternatively you can take used clothing to local charity shops.
  • Give old clothes/shoes/curtains/handbags etc. to jumble sales. Remember to tie shoes together: part of the 6% of textiles which is wastage for merchants are single shoes.
  • Buy second-hand clothes – you can often pick up unusual period pieces! If bought from a charity shop, it will also benefit a charity.
  • Buy things you are likely to wear a long time – a dedicated follower of fashion can also be a green one if items are chosen carefully.
  • Look for recycled content in the garments you buy. This should be on the label, though at present there is no conventional marking scheme and some companies do not always advertise the recycled content.
  • Buy cloth wipers instead of disposable paper products as the product can be used repeatedly.

Used Clothing vs. New Clothing

Why buy used clothing?

I guess the best way to answer this question would to first answer  the question, why buy new clothing? Well we buy new clothing, or accessories for a few different reasons. The average consumer may need new clothes because their other clothing is old or soiled. This is a good reason, but not necessarily the only reason why we are drawn to purchase new stuff. In most cases, at least here in the United States, we a drawn to purchase new items of clothing because we feel the need to have new stuff. Even when our old stuff, well just isn’t that old.

It all starts out at a young age. Young girls want to look like the pop stars on TV, young boys want to look like the athletes. They are not picking out clothes for functionality or warmth, but instead only for a look. For this reason the average consumer is drawn to purchase new clothing not for a need, but for a look. If it is a look that you are going after, why not purchased the clothing used.

There is a good chance, no matter how original you think that your style is, that somebody else was chasing that look before you.  When they went after the look it may have been the “New Thing” so they paid top dollar for some designer duds that were just a knock-off of a collection created 20 years prior. You, the much wiser hipster, already knew that with all of your independent fashion knowledge, so why would you be suckered into paying top dollar? Why not pay half the price, or a tenth of the price and get the same article vintage or slightly used at a wholesale rate?

Recycled Clothing 101: 5 Simple Ways to Recycle Clothing

Vintage Clothing Marketing Notes

Some things in life are just that simple, like recycling your clothing. It does not matter if you are thirteen years old or 85 years old, there are a number of ways that you can recycle your old duds. If you are curious as to why you should recycle your clothing than think about this number for a second, one million tons.  One million tons is the estimated amount of textiles put into landfills each year, with most of them coming from household waste.

The following is a list of Five (5) Simple Ways to Recycle Your Clothing

  1. Hand-me-downs This may be easier for the younger readers, but you can give your unused clothes to your younger brother or sister. Moms call this Hand-Me-Downs. It is a very simple concept but very effective if used properly. If you don’t have a younger brother or sister, give your old clothes to a smaller  neighbor or cousin. See…very simple.
  2. Resale Shop If you are the thrifty shopper or if you think that your are a trendy diva that doesn’t really know that many people possibly due to living in a new location or having a sour attitude, then why not take your old clothing  to the resale shop. Beware, there is a good chance that there might be a  chubster(1) behind the counter at the resale shop waiting to dish you out a piece of humble pie. This could bring some back down to the reality possibly realizing that their washed up style might not be so unique after all.  However, it is worth the chance to make some money on your old finds, and it shouldn’t stop you from moving on.
  3. Donate Your Clothes After picking up whats left of your ego, and your entire collection of last seasons rags from the by  counter at the resale shop, the chubster behind the counter will tell you that if you want you can donate your clothing to their clothing bin, and they will see that it gets to a charity. Of coarse you will want nothing to do with them,but they do bring up a good point, you could donate your clothing… maybe just not to them. If you don’t care either way leave your clothing at the resale donation bin, or if you want, there are plenty of other local charities that you can drop your old clothes at. Many of them will even pick them up from your front porch if you take the 1 minute out of your day to call them. They will see that your clothing is getting re-used. Just google local charities in your area.
  4. Local Clothing Swap If your hurting for cash , and you still cant get over the fact that the re-sale shop didn’t want a single item out of your collection, you could try a clothing swap. Most cities have volunteers that organize clothing swaps. You can find them by Google..ing “Local Clothing Swap” or checking your local Craigs List listings. A clothing swap is a gathering where a bunch of like-minded people bring their old clothing and trade out their old garments for others. If no one in your area is hosting a clothing swap then why not put together one for yourself. It can be done with neighbors and friends, or a through a church or local charity.
  5. Repurpose Your Clothing Ok I may have lied, I said that I had five simple ways to recycle fashion and this last one may or may not be that simple. This will depend on how creative you are, and how good you are with a sewing machine. If you don’t know how to sew, it is worth learning , if you do know how to sew then this will be simple. Any dress can be turned into a top or skirt. Any t-shirt can be turned into a bathing suit or t-shirt for a kid. Any pants can be turned into shorts.  It is a simple concept, but so often over looked. Sometimes you don’t even have to know how to sew, you just need to be able to use a pair of scissors.

Now make it happen. Next time you go through your closet and clear out two pieces or five bag fulls of clothing think about these five options that you now have before playing the fool and putting them into the trash.

(1) chubster: tacky overweight hipster girl or boy

Think Outside the Box : How to Make a Difference Starting With Your Wardrobe

make a difference

Here’s the irony: fashion is short-lived while fabric and pollution are not.

After all of the inspiration, design, and excitement pass, the clothes remain. Heavy Flannel, Acid-washed denim, Break dancing pants. They’re out there still, in closets, thrift stores, and land fills. Eco-savvy fashion choices mean not only reducing post-consumer refuse, but also pre-consumer waste and pollution.

After its origins on the farm, forest, or oil field, each jacket spent some time morphing into its present form. What chemicals were used to grow it? Were the dyes safe? As more designers and manufacturers create with eco-concerns in mind, it’s easier to find satisfying answers. Through smart wardrobe management and consumer choices, you can cut down on closet clutter, support clean industry, and look fabulous.

The FAQs below provided by TreeHUgger will help you navigate all of the terminology and find the best ways to Make a Difference Starting With Your Wardrobe.

1.Shop with a plan

When you bring an article of clothing into your life, its kind of like adopting a dog or cat. That cute little number has to have a place in your wardrobe, and you’re agreeing to provide for and give it the longest possible life with you. Abandoning the impulse buy may sound boring, but how exciting is a closet full of stuff that doesn’t work? In the long run, knowing what you’re looking for before you shop will save time and eliminate clutter. You’ll get more use out of a piece that looks and feels great: What colors work for you? What fits work the best? How will the piece get along with everything else in the closet? If the answer to “Will I still want to wear this rhinestone-studded bustier in two years?” or “Can I eventually find a way to use it in a craft project?” is no, skip it

2. Love your duds

Whatever you’ve chosen, take good care of it. When you get home, change out of work gear and into your famous dressing gown or leisure suit. Don’t cook or check the tire pressure in clothes you want to wear in public. Learn how to sew a button back on, or how to coax a nimble friend into doing it for you. Get the name of a local tailor or seamstress for major repairs or alterations.

3. Don’t go dry

Though the industry has improved much since 1992, there is still a high likelihood that your trusty corner cleaner uses perc (tetrachloroethylene), a known carcinogen. See if there is a local green cleaner employing “wet cleaning” or liquid CO2 techniques. Many articles whose tags ask for the dry clean treatment can actually be hand washed, especially silk, wool and linen.

4. Buy vintage or used

People unload clothes for all types of reasons, and you know that adage about trash and treasure. From Oscar-worthy vintage dresses to Freecycled denim, you can likely find the piece you’re looking for second hand. You’ll be giving a cast-off garment a second life, and possibly supporting charitable work in the process. See Dust Factory for more.

5. Wash well

Washing wreaks the most havoc of all. It requires lots of water and energy, so only do it when you absolutely need to and have a full laundry load. Turn articles inside out and use the lowest temp possible. If you know you glowed all over a piece, make a thin salt paste and soak the affected fabric for a half hour before washing. Choose phosphate-free and biodegradable detergents and line dry as much as possible. Treat stains quickly with nontoxic removers. If you’re buying a new washing machine, look for one with an Energy Star label.

6.Wear organic

Though cotton is marketed as clean, fresh, and natural, conventional varieties are anything but. It takes a third of a pound of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to produce the cotton for one T-shirt! That means lots of direct, unhealthy exposure for farmers and nearby wildlife, and heaps of unnecessary pollution. Luckily, organic cotton is becoming easier and easier to find. As mega-stores get into the game, however, it’s important to stay vigilant about what organic means, so you know you’re really getting clean clothes. Also know that though the cotton may have been organic to start with, your T may be full of processing chemicals and metal-laden dyes. See below for more info on labeling and certification.

7. Find a re-construction

A re-construction garment used to be another or many other articles. Designers all over the globe have taken on this transformative challenge in recent years, with very wearable results. This means a one-of-a-kind look for you, a new life for old fabric, and a livelihood for maverick re-users. See Particle Clothing for More.

8.Approach new fabrics with skeptical enthusiasm

No doubt you’ve heard the hype around bamboo, soy, or even corn fabric. The idea of finding alternatives to petrochemical-based and conventionally grown options makes us all perk up and we see why many eco-conscious designers are excited about them. Bamboo, for instance, sounds great: it’s a fast-growing plant, not reliant on chemicals, and beautifully drapes the human form. Trouble is, bamboo plantations can displace native forests, and the harvesting and fiber processing are often polluting and unregulated. As with soy, corn, and Tencel (which comes from trees), the processing from plant to fabric is energy and resource intensive. For now, approach these as alternatives to poly, nylon, acrylic or conventional silk and await more info. As always, shop with a plan: don’t fill multiple shopping bags just because the labels say “eco.” Read more about fabric choices below.

9.Choose clothes that work for you

It’s hard to feel beautiful in your raw silk dress when it’s likely that children’s scalded hands were part of the production chain. Conventional clothing might not say it, but clothing made under fair-wage and labor practices will usually advertise it. SweatShop Watch and Behind The Label are good sources of info. See more resources below.

10.Don’t throw it all away

Finally, a stain, a tear, or changing fashion threaten to separate you from your favorite dress shirt. Don’t just abandon your old friend to the waste-stream! If the condition is perfectly good, you can always donate or Freecycle it (see below for donation resources).

DO MORE

 

1. Speak up

Tell your favorite boutique or department store that you want clean fabric or re-used options.

2.Get it re-made

Once you have a tailor or seamstress, take in last year’s clothes for an overhaul. That stained sweater could become a cardigan, and that too-tight dress, a skirt.

3.Swaporamarama

Get together with pals for fizzy drinks and a clothing swap. If it’s new to you, it’s new for your friends as well.

4. Activate

Join the Organic Consumers Association’s Clothes for a Change Campaign.

5.Make donating a snap

Planet Aid places bins in convenient places to make donating old wearables easy. Is it easy for people to donate in your community?

vintage clothing recycle

THE FACTS ABOUT RECYCLED CLOTHING

1. The average American throws away about 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per year.

2. 10% of all agricultural chemicals and 25% of insecticides in the U.S. are used to grow cotton.

3. It takes almost 1/3 of a pound of chemicals (pesticides and fertilizers) to grow enough cotton for just ONE T-shirt

4. Seven of the fifteen pesticides used on cotton are considered “possible”, “likely”, “probable”, or “known” human carcinogens (acephate, dichloropropene, diuron, fluometuron, pendimethalin, tribufos, and trifluralin) according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

5. Some studies have shown that organic farmed soils have a better ability to absorb and retain carbon, which would be beneficial in the fight to reduce global warming.

6. Organically grown crops also use less fossil fuel than conventional crops, another benefit in the fight to reduce global warming.

7. Pesticides are suspected to be responsible the severe drop in honeybees, the increase in frogs with extra legs and eyes, and annual death of 67 million birds.

8. The U.S. textile “recycling industry” (which actually re-purposes rather than recycles), with some 2,000 companies, removes annually from the solid waste stream 2.5 billion pounds of post consumer textile product waste.

1.What makes clothing organic?

Organic clothing comes from all-natural materials (no synthetics like polyester or rayon) and there are no pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides, radiation, or genetically modified organisms used when growing the cotton/hemp/linen, or whatever plant we’re talking about.

Organic certification is complicated. According to the Organic Trade Association, organic cotton is grown in 12 countries, with Turkey and the United States leading the pack. There are a number of certifying bodies around the globe including: Demeter (Europe), KRAV (Sweden), Naturland (Germany), SKAL (Netherlands), The Soil Association (England), The Japan Organic Cotton Association, The International Natural Textiles Association (Germany), the USDA, and more. The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) strives to create international standards, and certifies the certification schemes of individual nations.

The Institute for Market Ecology provides on-location certification on behalf of many of the organizations listed above, and according to the Organic Cotton Blog, is certifying Walmart’s and Sam’s Club cotton.

The Organic Trade Association has developed certification for fiber processing. What does this mean? Clothes certified organic will arrive having been processed, dyed, transported, etc. in the most non-toxic manner possible.

What are the various meanings of “sustainable” and “organic” clothing? Check out this informative examination from the Organic Clothing Blog. The Fiber and Fabrics section in general is a great place to learn about hemp, wool, bamboo… And the associated Lotus Organics Clothing, Fiber and Fashion glossary contains most of the fiber definitions you would ever need.

So now you know.

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