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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Recycle Those Clothes

This morning I read an article in the New York Times that made me really mad. It seems that some retailers (in this article H & M and WalMart were specifically mentioned) are regularly ruining unsold clothing and dumping it in the trash, rather than offering it to charities, or at the very least, selling it for rag or other recycled uses.

This is just wrong.

According to the Council for Textile Recyling, about 3.9 million tons of textiles go into the U.S. solid waste stream every year. Fortunately, about 2 million tons of that is diverted by textile recyclers. Most of this astounding tonnage is pre- and post-consumer waste. The pre-consumer waste includes things like scraps and remnants from the various fiber and fabric industries. Post-consumer waste is made up of  carpets and mats, bedding, and used clothing - and, as we have seen in the New York Times article, new, unsold clothing that retailers have deliberately ruined.

Most people I know are pretty good about recycling their unwanted clothing. They donate to church sales, school fund raisers, St. Vincent de Paul clothing collections, local thrift shops, many of which benefit charities, and large social service organizations like Goodwill Industries and the Salvation Army.  I typically take my no-longer-needed clothing to a thrift shop that benefits an organization called Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA). The photo above is a of a pile of garments (left over from the clothing swap I organized a few months ago) that is destined for the NOVA Thrift Shop...I have promised my office mate that the pile will be gone this week!
There are many alternatives for recycling clothing. There is the traditional hand-me-down function among families and close friends. There are coat drives and  mitten collections.Items that aren't good enough to be sold at Goodwill or other thrift shops can be sold by these organizations to companies that recyle textiles into rags and polishing cloths, insulation, paper, blankets and more. And there are lots of creative people who repurpose clothing into new fashions, decorative items, housewares and more.

What do you do with your used clothing? Please share

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