What Happens to Those Old Clothes You Throw Away?

It has become more common for consumers to donate many of their newer clothing items due to cycling fashion trends, wardrobe makeovers and size fluctuations. However, even though there has been an increase in consumer donation during the last couple decades, many people still throw out a good deal of their older clothing. This amounts to billions of pounds of clothing every single year. It you’re tempted to toss away items of clothing you believe are too worn to be reused there are several things you should consider before you do.

Economic and Environmental Impact What happens to those old clothes you throw away? An EcoGoodz Blog Post

There are serious economic consequences that are the result of the massive trashing of clothes and related textiles. The average charge associated with a single ton of clothing dumped in a landfill is approximately $100, which means that taxpayers have the potential to save more than $1 billion every year by keeping old clothes out of landfills.

When clothes are buried in landfills they not only take up space in the earth, but have other negative impacts, which include soil contamination and the release of ghastly odors. If they are not sent to be buried then they are eradicated in an enormous incinerator.  This may sound like the better option but the process releases large amounts of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change and global warming.

Although this situation looks bleak, it is possible to recycle more than 90 percent of the clothes and textiles that are discarded. Many people falsely assume that if an item is worn or stained then it’s not usable. This is not the case as the majority of these products can be reused in a number of different ways.

Donating and Recycling Textiles

While textiles do not need to be sorted at the time of collection, they should be clean and dry. If clothing is wet or mildewed it will not be able to be sold for reuse. In order to prevent this type of contamination, many charitable organizations provide enclosed drop-off boxes and curbside collection.

Once your old clothing arrives at a textile recovery facility, it will be separated into specific categories based on its condition. Some groups of textiles will be sold as reusable clothing and other categories will be repurposed into wiping and polishing cloths, car insulation, fibers for upholstery, building materials, etc. Remaining natural materials such as cotton can be composted. Buttons and zippers are also collected for reuse, leaving very little left over at the end of the recycling process.

Recycling clothing and other household textiles benefits charities, reduces waste and provides employment opportunities. The main benefits that can be gained from recycling textiles include:

  • Funding of charitable programs,
  • Economic stimulus and employment
  • Sustainable and environmentally friendly practices reduce our carbon footprint
  • Support of economic development in countries abroad

Consumers in the United States typically throw out about 70 pounds of their unwanted textiles and clothing in the trash, which is unfortunate because almost 100 percent of it can be reused and recycled. Even if textiles you throw away are made from biodegradable natural fibers, they do not degrade easily when they are placed in landfills due to lack of sunlight and oxygen. If they are incinerated they will be contributing to air pollution. It is important to avoid throwing out any textiles you are not using because it is very likely that they will have some use and value in another form. Old clothing can become anything from insulation to carpet padding and by donating textiles you no longer want you will be supporting an extended product lifecycle.