This article was originally published in the Teton Valley News on June 5, 2014. It is reposted with permission.
Where does used clothing go to die? According to the US EPA, 14.2 million tons of textiles were sent to US landfills in 2012, a whopping 5.7% of municipal solid waste and an average of 70 pounds per person per year! I doubted these numbers, but when I did my own spring cleaning I found 25 pounds of old clothing and towels that were too worn or holey to donate, and an equal amount of clothing and blankets I plan to donate. Maybe 70 pounds isn’t too far off.
The best way to reduce textile waste is by shifting your shopping habits. Purchase durable clothing in classic styles that will last for years. Clothing made from natural fabrics such as cotton, wool, or bamboo will decompose faster than synthetic clothing once it reaches its final resting place. Consider buying used clothing from a local consignment or thrift store, particularly if shopping for someone who is likely to change sizes before the clothing wears out. When an outfit is no longer needed, pass it on to someone who can use it, host a clothing swap or a garage sale, or donate it back to a thrift store.
The Council for Textile Recycling estimates that only 10-20% of donated textiles are sold at the store where they are donated. Locally, we do much better. While clothing that is too stained or ripped to sell is thrown away, Milissa West at See N’ Save says that they are able to resell about 60% of clothing that is donated to them. Unsold clothing is trucked to Deseret Industries in Idaho Falls. Items that don’t sell in Idaho Falls are sent to the Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City, where they are baled and sold to used clothing buyers. Eventually, this clothing ends up on street markets in developing countries.
Clothing that is stained or ripped can’t be resold, but it CAN be recycled! Locally, Yostmark and NOLS of Teton Valley take back worn Patagonia clothing for recycling. Worn out denim can be mailed to Blue Jeans Go Green, where they are made into home insulation for communities in need. Damaged, torn, and stained textiles can be recycled at Jackson Integrated Solid Waste and Recycling. Worn textiles are sent to Big Brothers, Big Sisters in Salt Lake City, where usable goods are redistributed to local thrift stores and the rest are recycled into rags. Nationwide, textile recycling keeps 2.5 billion pounds of post-consumer textile waste out of landfills each year.
Before you recycle, consider mending or “upcycling” your clothes instead. Zippers, buttons, and small holes can be fixed. Frumpy old dresses can be transformed into trendy new styles. Favorite t-shirts can be made into a quilt or pillow. TVCR will celebrate local upcyclers at the Trash Bash on Saturday, June 14th. Teton Valley’s best trashionistas will model outfits made from waste. As a service to the community, TVCR will have a collection box at the event to collect stained, and ripped textiles for recycling. All textiles must be clean and dry. Please donate all goods that could be resold to See N’ Save first. For more information, email email@example.com.
Tanya Anderson is the executive director of Teton Valley Community Recycling. For more information, visit tetonrecycling.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
it reaches its final resting place. Consider buying used clothing from a local consignment or thrift store,TVCR will have a collection box at the event to collect stained, and ripped textiles for recycling