Do you have clothes that are kept in your closet for years and would probably never been worn? Or old clothes that you’re just tired of looking at and plan to get rid of? I was in that exact situation. But instead of throwing them away, I recycled them. I have some recycling ideas that benefit not only the environment but also myself and other people.
I have learned that each year, the U.S. produces approximately 25 billion pounds of textiles, including clothing, footwear, accessories, towels, and more. Only 15% gets donated or recycled, while 85% becomes our landfills. This 85% adds up to about 21 billion pounds of post-consumer textile waste (PCTW) per year. Unfortunately, this amount keep growing. Between 1999 and 2009, the volume of PCTW produced grew by 40%. Clothes that are made from natural textiles, such as cotton, silk, wool, cashmere, take about 1 to 5 months to decompose. On the other hand, clothes that are made from manufactured synthetic textiles, including polyester, spandex, nylon, and rayon, may take between 20 to 200 years fully biodegrade. By recycling, we can help reduce landfill waste and the amount of resources that needed to produce new clothing.
There are many ways to recycle clothing, and one of them is to do a DIY (Do It Yourself) project. Doing a DIY project allows me to express my creativity and practice my art skills. Not only that, I can own unique items that can become conversation starters or something that represent myself. Last week, I brought to the Story Circle one of my favorite DIY projects, a pair of pineapple shoes. I painted my old white tennis shoes and gave it a makeover. Many people didn’t even realize that I actually painted the shoes, and thought I bought them from a store. The pineapples and the bright color of the shoes deliver a fun and lively vibe which is also my personality. The possibilities and ideas for making different DIY projects are endless.
In addition, doing DIY projects can help me save money. Why spend $60 to $70 for a galaxy printed sweatshirt at Urban Outfitter when I can paint my old sweatshirt for less than $10? I also used small pieces of fabric that lay around the house to transform and add character to my old hoodie. Most of my old clothes don’t look boring anymore, and they have become something that I’m very proud of.
Another way to recycle clothing is to donate them to charity organizations, such as Salvation Army, Goodwill, Savers, and so on. These organizations help providing housing and food to anyone in need. They’re also actively involved in battle against poverty, addiction, and homelessness. Charities resell the clothes that weren’t purchased to recyclers. Secondhand clothing recyclers separate these materials into three general classifications. In the first group, majority of the old clothing is exported as secondhand clothing. In the second group, the clothing is converted into wiping rags which are used in various ways in industry and residence. In the third group, the clothing is recycled into post-consumer fiber which is used to make carpet padding, home insulation, and raw material for the automotive industry. The remained 5% of clothing becomes waste. In addition, donating old clothes can help creating more jobs.
I used to buy a lot of clothes and ended up having items that I would never wear. Being exposed to the fact that a huge amount of clothing becomes landfill each year makes me become more aware of what I buy. I find recycling old clothes is very necessary because not only it help the environment but also ourselves and our communities. It’s never too late to make a change.