Mon November 8, 2010

Textile Recycling: Secondhand Clothing Saved from Landfills

Originally published November 8, 2010 by Green Earth Bamboo

From diapers to Starbucks cups, there are massive recycling initiatives throughout the nation for various goods but one company is tackling the topic of our wardrobes and what we do when we dispose of clothing. USAgain is a green enterprise with the following mission: to provide consumers with a convenient and eco-friendly option to rid themselves of excess clothing, which we divert from wasting in landfills for resale here in the US and abroad. According to their website, "extending the life of clothes and shoes reduces environmental degradation from the manufacturing of new clothing and makes for a healthier planet."

But is the need really that great? Well, according to the EPA, 85% of unwanted clothing is discarded and accounts for more than 4% of municipal solid waste volume. In 2005, the volume of discarded clothing in the United States reached 8 million tons and it has only increased since then. Let's assume that most of that clothing is not organic and you have a lot of old shirts and pants clogging up a landfill. Even scarier is the fact that since 1980, the volume of US clothing consumption has quintupled!

The environmental impact of the consumer is a huge one and now what we do with old clothing is as important as how we shop for new clothing. It can take 700 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to produce one t-shirt and the crop itself is highly dependent on pesticide use. If you take into account how many emissions are released into the atmosphere (including voc's and acid gases), there is a scary amount of pollution involved in some textile manufacturing.

Buying secondhand clothing is one way to shop smarter for the earth. According to USAgain, every pound of clothing that is worn again saves seven pounds of greenhouse gases. And the website even offers live stats - currently it's at 379,550,897 items saved from landfills, 2,413,318,432 lbs of CO2 saved from entering the atmosphere and 1,971,659 cubic yards of landfill space saved.

San Francisco is the latest major metropolitan area to welcome the collection bins and since September, over 50,000 pounds of old clothes have found their way to them. The donated clothing will be sorted and will either be sold to final users (i.e - wholesalers or thrift stores) or it will be redistributed for resale in the US, Central America, Europe, Asia and South America where people can purchase used clothes for a fraction of what new ones would cost.

And while USAgain has taken some criticism about being a for-profit recycling operation (one that cannot provide a donor with a tax-return option), CEO Mattias Wallander argues that being a for-profit company allows them to expand the idea of clothing recycling and more easily place collection bins in convenient locations to make textile recycling easier for the donor.

"Just as your collectors of cardboard, aluminum and paper, they are all for profit entities, we see clothing as needed item that needs to be recycled more," Bostic said.

Choosing sustainable fabrics is another way to shop smart for Mother Earth which is why bamboo clothes and even bamboo sheets are smart options for the consumer!

No matter if you choose to wear second-hand clothing or buy organic, sustainable products, just remember that your purchasing power is a significant ally in the fight for our environment.

For more environmental news, visit Green Earth News section on Bamboo & The Environment.