Your Old T-Shirts are Killing the Environment
Did you know that almost all of the used clothing being thrown away is perfectly recyclable? The textile business was one of the first industries to form a recycling system and it has a very efficient process in place. The tragedy is that the majority of used clothing is not being put up for recycling and is instead taking up space in landfills. There are several important reasons that this should matter to you and there are also simple ways you can help to reduce this environmental impact.
In America alone, consumers are estimated to discard approximately 68 pounds of clothing every single year. Clothing and household textiles consist of a variety of materials such as nylon, cotton, polyester and rayon. These items account for almost 5 percent of the total waste in landfills even though the majority of them can be recycled.
This clothing is left to decompose and release methane into the environment. This is a harmful greenhouse gas and also a large contributor to global warming. In addition to greenhouse gas emissions, textiles also leach dyes and chemicals into the soil, which may contaminate water sources. While most of this material is completely reusable or recyclable, it can only serve this purpose if it is proactively donated and collected.
Reuse and Recycle
Although there is a huge demand for old textiles the majority of these items are not being put to use because they never reach the recyclers. If you do not wish to hand down your used clothing items to family or friends then the next best option is to donate them to a charitable organization. There are a good number of these organizations that accept all types of clothing in a variety of conditions. Even clothing in the poorest state can still be reused or recycled for other purposes.
In fact, more than 90 percent of textile waste that reaches recyclers can be successfully reused or recycled. Some of it is offered as used clothing while the rest is reprocessed to create other products such as rags, wipes, upholstery, insulation, etc. Textile recovery facilities will sort clothing into different categories to determine the best use for specific textiles. There is very little that is left over at the end of the recycling process and any remaining natural materials can usually be composted.
Benefits of Textile Recycling
There are numerous environmental benefits to be gained from recycling and reusing old clothing. Some of them include:
- A reduction in the amount of pesticides required to grow cotton
- Conserving water that would otherwise be used to dye fabrics
- Cutting down on pollutants, organic volatile compounds and greenhouse gases that are created during the manufacturing process.
- Less waste in landfills
This process also benefits consumers as well as individuals involved in the textile industry. Customers, especially in underdeveloped nations, benefit from the low prices of second-hand clothing. Recycled clothing also creates jobs at consignment stores, charity organizations and other businesses that repurpose fabric to make products for sale. The United States Textile Recycling Industry is made up of about 2,000 companies many of which are family-owned and are responsible for thousands of jobs.
By recycling clothing you no longer use you will be conserving natural materials and resources. This also translates to a reduced need to extract, refine, transport and process these materials, which is easier on the environment. Energy that would have been used in the manufacturing process is reduced resulting in less greenhouse gases and emissions.
In addition to these benefits, your recycled items will help provide clothing to millions of people in third world countries that cannot afford to purchase new clothing. We all lead busy lives but with just a little bit of extra effort we have the capacity to divert clothing from landfills and put it to use where it will make a difference in the lives of others.