Most of us have taken a look at our closet at some point in time and felt guilt about the amount of clothing we’ve accumulated. Most of us have also acknowledged the need to donate. While it seems easy to simply drop our clothing off at a Salvation Army or Goodwill, what many don’t know is how easily that can actually equate to throwing our clothing away.
Here are the facts about textile waste.
According to the United States Environment Protection Agency textiles as a category, have one of the lowest recycling rates of any reusable material. And when recycled, only 10% of those textiles are considered re-usable. That means about 90% are either sent to landfills or flood markets in developing countries. Each year in America alone, 10.5 million tons of clothing are sent to a landfill. That’s 31,250 tons everyday, 218,750 tons each week, and 875,000 tons each month. To clarify that’s a terrifying 62.5 mill. pounds of clothing a day headed to a landfill.
As we mention above, donating to some government-run charities like The Salvation Army and Goodwill may not be the most effective way to recycle our clothes. Although these charities stood as our nation’s go-to textile recyclers since the early 20th century with bins for donations appearing as early as the 1940s, this system was established in a pre-consumerist America, before fast fashion reigned our wallets and before our current waste crisis came to exist.
Over the past decade, the amount of clothing Americans purchase has tripled 400%. And between 1999 and 2009, the volume of textile trash rose by 40 percent. Because of this, the bins that initially started out as an effective recycling method have transformed charities into dumps that accept clothes of varying condition in ever-increasing volumes.
As Jackie King, executive director of the Secondhand Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (a trade group) states, “People think that when they are giving to, say, a Salvation Army or Goodwill, that all of that is going to be resold in their stores, and it’s just not, because they don’t have enough room for that.” Instead, these charities sell only about 10% of what they receive in their retail shops. That means that most of our clothing is simply going to the trash bin we walked past on our way to the neighborhood Goodwill.
While it will take some time to find a real solution to the entirety of the waste issue, we, as tenants of this environment, can do our part in alleviating the situation by collectively changing the direction in which we send our clothes. Instead of finding an easy fix to get rid of your old clothing, look for organizations that are honest in what they say they do with your donations. And only donate items that have potential for a second life – no holes, no stains, no tears. Be considerate of the next person wearing your clothing.
Instead of finding an easy fix to drop your bag of clothing, look for organizations that are honest in what they say they do with your donations.
Here are some places you can safely and consciously give to, knowing that the majority of your clothing will find a useful home:
Dress for Success: A non-profit that focuses on the empowerment of women looking to go back into the workforce – focusing on suiting and styling them with appropriate interview attire
Refashion NYC: In partnership with Housing Works, Refashion NYC uses donations and profits from donations to fund a full range of lifesaving services for homeless and low income men, women, and youth living with HIV and AIDS, including housing, medical care, job training and other supportive services.
You can also always donate to local homeless or battered women’s shelters. Donating to local organizations is safer because there is no middleman or complicated distribution process. You can always take the clothes to the front door and talk to someone directly.
Know of other great clothing donation resources? Let us know in the comments!
Images via Monica Outcalt