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.
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.
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.
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?
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
BY: Jackie Northam | NPR
On a bright and warm Saturday morning, there’s a steady flow of people dropping off donations at Martha’s Table, a charity in downtown Washington, D.C. A mountain of plastic and paper bags stuffed with used dresses, scarves, skirts and footwear expands in one corner of the room. Volunteers sort and put clothes on hangers. They’ll go on sale next door, the proceeds of which will help the needy in the area.
It’s a scene played out across the U.S.: people donating their old clothes, whether through collection bins or through large charities, to help others. Read more
Did you ever wonder what happens to your clothing after you put it into a donation bin? Sometimes it ends up in a thrift store, sometimes it ends up in a vintage shop and sometimes it ends up being processed to be reused as a wiping rag.
Wendy Koch, an investigative reporter at USA Today recently took a look into the recycled clothing industry, where the clothes end up when you donate them and where they end up if you don’t. With the average American throwing out over 70lbs of used textiles a year, each one of us is responsible for what we do with our old duds.
Clothes recycling is expanding with curbside pickups and in-store collection bins, but what happens to donated items? USA TODAY’s Wendy Koch finds out.
Clothes recycling is going curbside in more U.S. towns as global prices rise for the used apparel, shoes and linens that Americans often toss in the trash.
Since September, more than a dozen local governments — in Arizona, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington state — have begun curbside pickup of textiles, often in special bags next to bins containing paper and cans. New York City has put clothing collection bins in nearly 250 apartment buildings in the last two years.
Businesses, too, are placing collection bins in parking lots and gas stations. In the last year, The North Face, H&M and other retailers have begun using in-store bins to offer customers store vouchers for donating clothes — whatever the brand, and sometimes, whatever the condition.
The nation’s robust recycling industry is increasingly targeting clothes — even those that are stained, ripped, mismatched or out-of-fashion. Companies and non-profit groups are partnering with cities eager to reduce landfill costs. They pick up the clothes, sell or reprocess them into wiping rags and other goods, and give the cities or local charities a cut of the pie — often pennies per pound.
“”It’s a trend more cities are considering.” says Tom Watson, a recycling official in Washington state’s King County, where the Seattle suburb of Issaquah has teamed up with waste collector CleanScapes for curbside pickups. As a result, he says non-profits such as Goodwill Industries International and Salvation Army face more competition for donations.
Queen Creek, Ariz., launched a curbside pilot project in September that collected 27,000 pounds of material in four months and earned nearly $3,000 for both the city and its Boys and Girls Club. It partnered with United Fibers, a company that turns textiles into insulation
“This is stuff I wouldn’t want to give away,” says Ramona Simpson, the town’s environmental programs supervisor, referring to items that are no longer wearable and wouldn’t sell at Goodwill or other charity stores. She says the town, after developing a stronger bag for collecting clothes, will soon relaunch the program.
Salvation Army began partnering this year with Massachusetts’ Brockton and Worcester to pick up clothes curbside. Community Recycling, a for-profit that sells clothes for reuse, started pickups in October in Pennsylvania’s Newtown and a dozen neighboring communities and will do the same next month in Westville, N.J.
“Anything that is clean and dry can be reused or recycled,” says Jackie King, executive director of Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association, an industry group. She says nearly half of donated clothes are sold for reuse, mostly overseas where demand and prices have risen.
Goodwill’s Michael Meyer says per-pound international prices vary but have risen from a low of about three cents to 20 cents. He says his non-profit, which requests “new and gently used” items to fund job training programs, sells the “vast majority” at its stores, outlets or auctions. What’s left, he says, is sold to companies that recycle the material into other products or sell them for reuse overseas.
King says the average American throws away 70 pounds of clothing, linens and other textiles each year. Textiles account for 5% of municipal waste, because only about 15% of them are recycled — compared with 72% of newspapers and 50% of soda cans, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“There’s a lot of room for improvement,” says Jennifer Berry of Earth911.com, a website that lists, by ZIP code, places where myriad items can be recycled.
“Clothes clog our landfills. They don’t decompose”, says Kelly Jamieson of Planet Aid, a non-profit with bright yellow collection bins in many metro areas. “We’re very privileged people. We throw away things many other people never would.”
Her group placed bins on college campuses nationwide last week as part of the “OneShirt Challenge” for Earth Day, aimed at educating students on the need to recycle even the rattiest T-shirts.
“My friends just let things pile up in their rooms, which is a pretty big waste,” says Jan Nguyen, a University of Maryland student who’s donating old athletic shoes. She says she rarely throws anything away and uses socks that have lost their mate as chalkboard erasers.
With super-cheap manufacturing. clothes are falling apart and being thrown away at a faster rate, says Heather Rogers, author of Green Gone Wrong: How Our Economy is Undermining the Environmental Revolution. “There’s been a transformation of clothing into a disposable item.”
Watson, the Washington recycling official, says consumers should consider buying fewer but higher-quality items that will last longer, noting the average American buys at least twice as many pieces of clothing as 20 years ago. He suggests they avoid impulsive purchases, take good care of their clothes and, when possible, buy used items at thrift stores.