Where Does Discarded Clothing Go?

by Rachel Baker on July 18, 2014

Many crafters look for ways to do the environment a solid by upcycling from old to “new…again”. Because upcycling can be a very viable way to recycle your clothes, I thought this article may be of interest.

Figuring out the proper way to dispose of old clothes can be perplexing; if these bins were to be taken off the sidewalks, few people would know where to put their used clothing. On top of that, Americans still think of old clothes as charitable donations, which explains the outrage over news that the Viltex bins actually belong to a for-profit company.

Those in the textile-recycling industry are now trying to clear up the confusion. “What we need to do is change the dialogue to, ‘You’re not just donating, you’re reusing and recycling,'” says Jackie King, executive director of the Secondhand Materials and Recycled Textiles Association, a trade group. “It’s an issue of communicating that and getting people to understand that if they want to use a charitable organization to reuse or recycle clothing, great. If not, let’s make it convenient for people to dispose of it elsewhere.”

Most recycling, from bottles to cans to newspapers, is done by for-profit companies. In a nation that churns out an ungodly amount of waste, this amounts to big business. Take plastic: The U.S. exported more than $940 million worth of plastic scrap in 2010. The value of used clothing, moreover, has been in its own inflationary bubble since the recession, as more people are cash-strapped and opting to buy used.

Of course, castoff clothing differs from a bottle or a newspaper in that almost half of it can be reused as secondhand clothing; it needn’t be ground down into a pulp to make a new product, as is the case with plastic or glass. But the other half—the ripped, the torn, the busted—is recyclable.

Where Does Discarded Clothing Go?

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