Curbside Clothes Recycling Programs Are Becoming A Thing

Pile of clothes for recycling“Fast fashion” can be fun and inexpensive, and who among us has not succumbed to an ill-advised impulse buy? But garments that fall apart or out of style quickly wind up in landfills quickly, and most of us are throwing away way too many clothes.

According to USA Today, people in the U.S. throw out 11.1 million tons of textiles every year, and a lot of that could be reused. In an attempt to mitigate the problem, some areas have rolled out curbside clothes recycling programs, with clothing recycling bags next to the glass and paper receptacles.

The recycled clothes are picked through, and any garments that can still be used are sold or given away. Unwearable clothing can be processed into rags and other textile goods.

“Anything that is clean and dry can be reused or recycled,” said Jackie King of the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association to USA Today. A lot of donated clothing or discarded clothing that is still wearable winds up being sold by weight overseas for a few cents per pound.

Americans on average buy twice as many pieces of clothes today as they did 20 years ago. And according to King, the average American throws away 70 pounds of textiles, including sheets and towels and such, every year. But only about 15 percent of textiles are recycled, whereas 72 percent of newspapers and 50 percent of soda cans are recycled.

But more cities have been looking into this kind of clothes recycling program. More than 12 clothes recycling programs have been launched since September, and some stores have stared collecting donations of used clothing and offering coupons to people who bring old stuff in. Buying new stuff to replace the old stuff doesn’t exactly help curb the tide of clothing waste, but at least the old stuff won’t be clogging up the landfills as much.

One clothes recycling program in Arizona managed to gather 24,000 pounds of discarded clothing in four months. Selling the unwanted clothes to a company that turns textiles into insulation netted $3,000 the city and the local Boys & Girls Club. It also kept 24,000 pounds of fabric out of the landfill.

Via USA Today/Photo: Shutterstock

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    • Lastango

      I’m calling BS on this. The problem is government involvement. Not many people are aware, but the recycling we engage in now is a huge scam. Except for aluminum cans, very little of what we put into blue bins gets re-cycled. No manufacturers want the glass and the plastic. It ends up in landfills, just like it always did. But now, it gets there after some very expensive separating and handling along the way. When glass, plastic, and rubber do actually get re-used, it is only because manufacturers have gotten taxpayer money to reimburse them for the extra cost involved in processing the material. So we have layer upon layer of extra cost, just so we can get our little “gosh-I-helped-save-the-earth” buzz when we put a plastic bottle in the blue bin.

      All that is going to come as a shock to folks raised in the Church of Recycling, so start here:
      For instance, read about how picking up separated recyclables from homes required doubling the number of garbage trucks — with all that extra cost, fuel burn, etc.
      The more we read, the more recycling begins to feel like the ethanol fraud: an industry that would not exist without government fiat, but which is now known to consume more fossil fuel than it saves, and produce more pollutants than it avoids. Even the environmentalists who championed ethanol have now turned against it. Ethanol survives only because it is an agricultural subsidy to farm belt states and well-connected ethanol producers.
      So now, with clothes recycling, we have yet another way for municipal governments to grow themselves at taxpayer expense while pushing our feelgood buttons so we can get all warm & fuzzy about how much we care for the less-fortunate. No sale.

    • sumera

      At first it looks like a cool way to use all that garbage(not garbage in fact) but Lastango your point is also valid. But this is how stuff works, we have to take initiative somewhere in the life and later it always turns into good. I hope this is also going to be a good move in furture.