Sun April 11, 2010

Even in the recession year of 2008 textile consumption in the U.S. continues to grow -- recovery drops. 

In spite of the recession one material seems impervious to changing spending habits. Textile consumption increased by 430,000 tons in 2008 according to recent data released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This brings the total volume of clothing and other textiles consumed annually to 12,370,000 tons, which works out to be 81 pounds per man, woman and child living in the U.S.  

According to the 2008 data, the consumption of many other materials declined in this recession year. Following a general decline in consumption and manufacturing, less paper, plastics, glass, rubber and leather were consumed in 2008 than in 2007. Of materials generated in the municipal waste stream, only textile-, wood- and metal-consumption increased and of these the increase in textiles was the greatest.

Decline in Recovery

Collection of textiles for reuse and recycling dropped from 2007 to 2008 by 30,000 tons to 1,890,000 tons. This is approximately the same amount that was recovered in 2005, but in the interceding 3 years consumption grew by 1 million tons, meaning that 1 million more tons of textiles went into landfills in 2008 than in 2005.

The amount of textiles not recovered in 2008, but disposed of as municipal waste, was 10,480,000 tons according to the U.S. EPA figures.  

Product Data Show Same Picture

The EPA breaks down generation and recovery by both material and product, and these figures show the same picture.

In the product category, discards of clothing, footwear, towels, sheets and pillowcases increased from 7,980,000 tons in 2007 to 8,530,000 tons in 2008.  This equals 56 pounds discarded for every man, woman and child in 2008.  More than 85% of clothes, shoes and household textiles were discarded and less than 15% were recovered in 2008.

Discarded Material is Reusable

Most of the textiles, clothes and shoes that are discarded are in reality reusable. However the existing infrastructure for collecting the surplus clothing is insufficient and falls short. 

With 11 years praxis in the collection of clothes and shoes, USAgain has demonstrated its know-how and commitment to increasing the recovery of textiles from the waste stream. USAgain diverted 27,000 tons of clothes and shoes for re-wear and reuse in 2009 and continues to invest in its expanding network of convenient collection points nationwide.


The most recent U.S. waste characterization study was released in November 2009. You can download the EPA waste characterization data tables here.