Most of us are familiar with recycling bottles, glass, cans, and paper…but what about clothing? There’s a growing recognition for the need to increase our efforts to recycle our clothing as well as other fabrics, and this guide will give you the why’s, what’s and how’s to begin recycling your textiles.
Why recycle textiles?
All too often our clothing is simply thrown away, ultimately ending up in a landfill. There, natural fibers can take hundreds of years to decompose, and synthetic fibers can take much, much longer.
In addition to adding to the increasing problem of overflowing landfills, as textiles slowly decompose fabrics that are chemically treated can release toxins that pollute the air and leach into the ground soil and water supply.
Recycling textiles clearly benefits the environment, but it also benefits people. In many parts of the world, second-hand clothing is the norm, and what we no longer wish to wear could be the very outfit that brings warmth and confidence to another person.
Which textiles can be recycled?
Textile recycling is a broad term that can include many different sources of fabrics and materials, from clothes to curtains. Recyclable textiles can be pre-consumer materials—the scraps left over from the manufacturing process—and post-consumer materials—clothing and other items that people have purchased and used.
How are textiles recycled?
How textiles are recycled depends on their type and condition. If the textiles are used clothing items in wearable condition, they can be collected and donated or sold to thrift stores. If they are items of clothing that are not wearable, or other types of fabric, they can be treated and eventually turned into industrial rags or into new fibers and yarns.
Whatever the end use of recycled textiles, the recycling process generally involves sorting the material according to type, and then funneling it into the proper process for either synthetic or natural fibers.
Where can textiles be recycled?
There are several different ways textiles can be turned in for recycling, but among the most common are clothing drives and collection bins set up at businesses and central locations. From the collection bins, clothing is sorted, and what’s wearable is given new life as second-hand clothing.
The case for textile recycling is a strong one, and today’s pressing need for greater environmental responsibility combined with the growing opportunities to recycle clothing and other fabrics makes it increasingly easy to do the right thing for our planet and each other.