Recycling Textiles for a Sustainable Future

Jun, 09, 2014

By Fredrica Syren:

I think it’s safe to say that, when I get dressed in the morning or when I buy new clothes, I don’t think too much about what effectclothes in landfill these clothes have on the environment. Don’t get me wrong: I really try to buy as many organic and eco-friendly clothes as possible. As well, I buy used clothing, I borrow clothes and I accept hand-me-downs from friends. But the reality is that, until recently, I did not know about textile production’s effect on our planet.

With much of the world experiencing droughts, it’s a sad fact that textile production is one of the most unknown water hogs. Not only does it require tons of water to grow textile materials, but lots of water is wasted in the dye process as well. For example, it takes 500 gallons of water to make one pair of stonewashed jeans. Furthermore, textile and cotton also rely heavily on pesticides that will later enter the ground, soil and water; and will pollute our planet and put textile workers’ health at risk.

The sad part is that most old clothes and textiles will end up in a landfill eventually. About 11.1 million tons of textiles such as t-shirts, pants, blankets, tablecloths, sheets and baby clothes are thrown into the trash and then into landfills in the U.S. each year. Now, if everyone would get into the habit of coming up with clever ways to reuse, recycle and donate old textiles, it would be more sustainable.

There is a new kind of business developing for this particular cause. Recycling Textiles in New York is one of them. This minority women owned green social enterprise’s mission is to keep clothes out of landfills, preserve our environment, and give clothes to the needy. A win-win deal, don’t you think?

They operate collection bins set up at over 600 locations in the New York Metro Area. So far, they already have collected over three million pounds of textiles, saved about one billion gallons of water, and dressed the needy at the same time. All the textiles that are unsalable for wearing because they are old, ripped and stained are recycled for commercial use as household insulation, stuffing for toys, or for use in other eco-friendly products.

Other local governments in Arizona, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington State have joined in the fight to keep textiles out of the landfills by adding clothing collection bins.

Reusing and recycling old things and preventing them from going into the landfill are great ways to reduce the use of raw materials, energy use, air pollution, water pollution, waste, and green house emissions. The next time you have a bag of old textiles, take a moment to research where you can donate them, and keep them out of the landfill. Remember, someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure

Fredrika Syren

Fredrika Syren is an environmental activist and writer. In 2016, she founded the website Green-Mom.com where she shared her family’s journey of living zero waste. She lives in San Diego, California with her husband James and their children Bella, Noah, and Liam. Fredrika and her family were recently featured in the documentary Zero Time to Waste. Fredrika is also the author of Zero Waste for Families - A Practical Guidebook (which you can buy on this site)

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