Where Do Your Clothes Go When You Stop Loving Them?
You’re likely going to add 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles to a landfill this year according to the Environmental Protection Agency (81 lbs. if global thrift retailer, Savers, is more accurate). You may not mean to. You might not know who would want that old stuff. You likely can’t have it hauled away in your curbside recycling bin, so the quickest thing to do is to toss it in the trash.
Why so much old clothing?
In an age of “fast fashion” and reduced availability of long-lasting, quality clothing, the average American is creating larger mountains of textile waste. Thanks to the Great Recession, many apparel companies that produced merchandise in the “better” or “bridge” categories ceased to exist. These labels that weren’t quite “designer,” offered long-lasting, quality design and construction at relatively moderate prices. Meanwhile, more and more apparel production was sent overseas in the name of cost reduction. Many U.S. clothing manufacturers could not compete at a time when consumers were demanding lower prices. The answer was cheap, short-cycle clothing that now saturates the marketplace. We now dispose of more clothing at a faster rate than ever before.
Some hope for the environment
Your discards don’t have to contribute to the EPA’s reported 5% landfill makeup of textiles (clothing and other household materials, like bedding). Right now, only 15% of unwanted clothing is recycled. But with awareness, comes change. Below are options for recycling or upcycling your old stuff, and some organizations are making it easy, with free shipping, clothing rebates, and convenient drop-off locations.
To the Rescue:
Cotton’s “Blue Jeans Go Green”
Cotton’s program keeps textile waste out of landfills by recycling denim into insulation (made from 80% post-consumer recycled denim.)
The Bra Recyclers
The Bra Recyclers tell us the average woman owns six bras, but only wears 2. They’re providing gently-used bras for women & girls escaping domestic violence, human trafficking, or surviving breast cancer without the necessary insurance. If you don’t find a drop-off location near you, you can mail them directly.
The Bra Recyclers
This organization, based in Nashville, TN, believes that everyone around the world deserves a good pair of shoes. They’ve distributed over 35 millions pairs of shoes since 2006. Donated new or gently-worn shoes provide footwear to people in need and help individuals start and sustain small businesses to lift themselves out of poverty. There are drop off locations, retail partners (like Zappos and DSW), or you can mail your donations.
Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program collects old, worn-out athletic shoes for recycling and transforms them into Nike Grind, a material used in creating athletic and playground surfaces as well as select Nike products. Visit the site for drop-off locations.
Fill a box with quality clothing, print a mailing label from the website and provide to your mail carrier. This online resale shop donates 40% of proceeds after shipping costs to Malala Fund to support girls’ education projects in vulnerable communities around the world.
Schoola for Malala Fund
A word about recycling collections
Collection boxes in neighborhoods and retail stores offering rebates in exchange for clothing donations are attractive options at first glance. Unfortunately, the sorting process is costly, and the need for second-hand clothing in North America is small in relation to what is disposed of. (More about that in this Newsweek article and this one in ScienceLine.) As as result, many donations land in dumps, despite the intentions of the donor. The best bet for sustainable disposal of your old clothing is to find a program that actually uses the clothing like those listed above. Mindful actions make a difference!
Read here for advice in editing your closet of that no-longer-useful-to-you clothing.
What do you think of our recycling options? Do you have favorite resources of your own? Let me know your thoughts in the comment box below. I read them all. (You just might be the inspiration for my next blog post.)
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Patty Buccellato is an image coach and founder of Refined Images. She brings extensive knowledge and expertise to her work with men and women individually, as well as with corporate employee groups.
Patty established Refined Images in 1994, and while her studio is based in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, you’ll find her serving clients throughout North America in their homes, offices — and, yes, even in shopping malls! To get your FREE copy of Patty’s “How to Shop Like a Stylist,” visit www.RefinedImages.net or contact Patty.
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