As I was cleaning out my closet, I found some white t-shirts that had definitely seen better days. The unsightly stains and a few tears made them unwearable and not something I could donate to a thrift store. But still, it felt so wrong to just toss them in the trash can.
According to the EPA, the average American throws away 54 pounds of clothing and shoes each year. Textiles made up an estimated 5.3 percent of the total municipal solid waste in 2010. That's a lot of waste. But is there an alternative?
SMART (the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association), trumpets its message “Donate, Recycle, Don’t Throw Away.” Textile recycling facilities can turn cotton into rags, wool into car insulation or seat stuffing, and other types of fabric can be reprocessed into fibers for upholstery, insulation, and even building materials. SMART's website lets you search for clothing donation locations near you.
I was excited to learn about GrowNYC’s clothing and textile recycling collection program. I can drop off my T-shirts at the Union Square Greenmarket and at several other locations throughout the city.
So don’t throw it away! The next time you're making a clean sweep of the closet, put a bag aside and recycle all those not-so-gently-worn garments.
To learn how to recycle just about everything else in your house, check out our Recycling Handbook.