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Textile Recycling: What Happens to the Non-Reusable Stuff?

recycling blog imgWhen recycled clothing gets a second life that can mean a lot of things. Most clothing collected by USAgain and other textile recyclers is reused in its original form as secondhand clothing, but what about the stuff that’s too worn our to be re-worn?

Clothing resale outlets typically don’t sell clothing that’s deemed to be defective, but to recycling companies, such items are still perfectly OK. When you recycle the stained, old t-shirt you used to wear for gardening or working on the car, there’s a good chance it’ll be turned into a cleaning rag, mop or similar product. Ironically enough, clothing too dirty to be re-worn is ideally suited to be turned into cleaning materials.

Cloths and rags

Companies like Coastal Wipers sell a considerable selection of wiping cloths and shop towels made from various recycled clothing items. Buying recycled towels is a smart alternative to buying new ones, and industries (notably the oil industry, ironically) have been using recycled shop towels for quite a while. There’s really no need to use precious cotton, water and other resources to produce cloths that could be made from recycled items. In fact, about 17 gallons of water is used to produce a new shop towel—17 more than to create a recycled one.

Design items for the home

Many recycled textiles are made into wiping rags and other cleaning products, but contrary to what you might think, textiles are recycled into products for other uses.

Jinja, a Portuguese company that sells products made from recycled textiles, offers some of the most aesthetically appealing items made from recycled textiles.  A few of their recycled items include this Jackson Pollock-inspired placemat and wine bottle coolers prove that textiles can be recycled into more than cloths and rags—they can be made into interior design pieces with a bit of flair.

Insulation

Have a ripped-up pair of jeans lying around? By recycling them, your jeans may very well be broken down and turned into insulation. Cotton Blue To Green, a non-profit insulation manufacturer, gives recycled denim a new life by turning it into UltraTouch insulation, manufactured by Bonded Logic. This denim insulation is safe to use and works exactly like normal insulation, and of course, no new resources are needed to create it, just old, unwearable jeans.

According to EPA data, all textiles are recyclable but only 15% actually are. These mistakenly trashed items often include the ripped, stained and damage items that are no longer suitable for regular ware. While it may be fair to say a ripped article of clothing is no longer fit for reuse, it’s patently false to say it’s useless—it’s a perfect fit to be recycled into something new.

We’d be remiss if we failed to mention the economic gains made possible by the recycling of textiles. Recycling clothing also creates ten times more jobs than waste removal and landfilling. Recycling textiles creates jobs, conserves resources and keeps harmful waste from entering landfills. Next time you find yourself with an unwearable t-shirt, we trust you’ll know what to do with it.

NYACS Convention

USAgain hosted a display booth at the New York Association of Convenience Stores trade show & convention from May 15-16 of 2013.

Learn more about NYACS

Clothing Recycling Catching on Among New York Residents

New York-area residents diverted more than 7.5 million pounds of clothing and shoes from landfills in 2012, the textile recycler USAgain announced today.

That amounts to 1,731 garbage trucks of clothing. It also saved more than 43,000 cubic yards of landfill space, more than 53 million pounds of carbon emissions and more than 10.6 billion gallons of water in 2012.

Nationally, USAgain, a for-profit clothing recycling company, diverted nearly 58 million pounds of unwanted clothing and shoes last year that would have otherwise been thrown into the trash and ultimately buried in landfills.

“This was a major accomplishment in curbing the negative impact that irresponsible textile disposal can have on our environment,” said USAgain CEO Mattias Wallander. “More people are beginning to realize and understand the environmental benefits in seeking a convenient way to having their old clothing recycled and re-used instead of throwing it in the garbage.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans discard 85 percent of unwanted clothing and shoes into the trash each year, amounting to more than 11 million tons of textiles that get dumped in landfills.

“Considering 85 percent of all textiles end up in landfills, all of us need to do a better job of looking for ways to recycle and re-purpose clothing,” Wallander added. “But when zero-cost recycling options like USAgain and charitable organizations are accessible and convenient, we can have a positive impact on the environment.”

The 58 million pounds of clothing that USAgain recovered would fill 13,257 garbage trucks. It would also fill 52 football fields – or one football field a week – 1 yard deep with reusable material. Overall, USAgain saved nearly 332,000 cubic yards of landfill space, conserved 406 million pounds of carbon emissions and spared 81 million gallons of water in 2012.

“Textile recycling isn’t just a trend we’re noticing in one specific part of the country,” said Wallander, noting USAgain’s growth throughout the nation during the past year. “Recycling habits are catching on nationwide.”

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About USAgain

USAgain – a leader in the textile recycling industry with corporate headquarters in West Chicago, IL. – is a for-profit company that recycles and resells reusable clothing and other textiles. Its mission is to provide consumers with a convenient and eco-friendly option to rid themselves of excess clothing, which is diverted from landfills. In 2012, USAgain was awarded an “A” rating by the Better Business Bureau. It maintains more than 10,000 collection boxes in 18 states and has nearly 200 employees. For more information, visit www.usagain.com.