May 26, 2019 | Updated: 10:32 PM EDT

Saving the Environment, One Old Clothing at a Time

Mar 08, 2019 08:08 AM EST

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Saving the Environment, One Old Clothing at a Time
(Photo : Daniel Gold)

According to recent findings, textile waste takes up a big chunk of the garbage hauled to landfills. In 2015, over 10 million tons of these garbage were textile items. This includes carpets, footwear, discarded clothing, sheets, and towels. Unfortunately, only 14.2% of the clothing and shoes have been recycled during the said year.  The textile items that were not recycled would sit in the landfills for over 200 years. 

Fast Company, an American business magazine, brought up this issue for public awareness. In their report, New York alone is responsible for 200 million pounds of clothing being thrown in the trash every year. With this issue at hand, the New York City Department of Sanitation, together with other foundations, organizations, and several fashion companies initiated a drive in the city. New Yorkers were called out to dispose of their old clothing by using any of the 1,000 designated drop-off points in the city. Some retailers would even give out $20 vouchers in exchange for old unwearable pants.

TerraCycle accepts old clothing that was mailed in. Boxes for shipping out discarded clothing are available on their website. The company has also partnered up with Bausch in this venture, accepting old contact lenses which will be melted into plastic and in turn, made into other products.

Another method of disposing of old clothing is by donating the usable ones to different charity or thrift stores. These stores often accept clothes that they can still sell. However, if the clothes are no longer sellable, the clothes are either thrown out or sent out for recycling.

The sad reality remains that old clothing cannot be recycled back into the same clothing. However, it could be down-cycled into other products such as rags, handicrafts, or insulation. Down-cycling is the process of using old items to make a new product. For textile, this is the choice to take when the items are no longer usable as it is. 

All these efforts work toward cutting back on the garbage that humankind has been producing through the years. As textile waste bears a heavyweight when it comes to tallying garbage materials, it is crucial to lowering the number of textile items being sent to landfills. Textile fibers may release methane and carbon dioxide gas as it sits in the landfills for hundreds of years. While this is true for natural fibers, synthetic fibers will not decompose and release toxic substances instead. With this in mind, the proper disposal of unwanted old clothing is one way to help save the environment.

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