If you are like me, the amount of waste you put in your trash has decreased significantly over the past decade. This is due to a number of factors, including the recycling bin that I fill up every week and that has increased in size in the city I live in.
And, of course, it is also due to the number of yearly trips I make to donate my old clothing, shoes, linens, etc. to a local charity like the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and the local women’s shelter.
However, there’s still one area that I struggle with: what to do with old clothes, socks, shoes, sheets, etc. that I just don’t think are nice enough to donate to other people. I know that if I put them in the trash, they will remain in a landfill for hundreds of years. So I often use old t-shirts, dishtowels, socks, and even underwear as rags. But you can only have so many rags, and eventually even they need to be disposed of.
That’s why I started to explore options for these items and was pleasantly surprised to learn that there are businesses, organizations and local governmental agencies that will take these items and reuse or repurpose them.
For example, the City of Santa Monica holds regular “textile collection” events to collect old materials. Not only do they collect old rags, towels, bedding, and unusable clothing, but they also have a reuse workshop showing people how to sew bags made out of t-shirts to use for shopping at the local farmers’ market.
In New York City, GrowNYC offers clothing & textile recycling collection at 19 Greenmarkets throughout the city. They indicate that they have collected over 1.5 million pounds since 2007.
And some clothing companies actually take back their old products from consumers for reusing. Patagonia, with their “Common Threads Garment Recycling Program,” is one company that does this.
If you can’t find a place to donate to or recycle your stuff, you might want to check out S.M.A.R.T. (Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles) Association. This non-profit trade association has over 200 member businesses that take your used clothing, as well as clothing and other textiles from commercial businesses like laundries and hotels and excess donations from charitable organizations. The group’s motto is “donate, recycle, don’t throw away,” and they certainly live up to it.
About 45% of the clothing collected goes to other countries that want secondhand clothes, 30% of the textiles become wiping and polishing cloths used in businesses, and 20% becomes fibers used in things such as insulation, soundproofing, and furniture stuffing.
They offer tips on recycling your textiles, and you can even search for a recycling center near you.