How Your Old Clothes Can Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas

Posted at March 14, 2014 | By : | Categories : Blog,Our Events | 0 Comment

In the three decades I have been involved with recycling, I never dreamed we would be using Textiles and Greenhouse Gas in the same sentence. However, recent media attention has made us all much more aware of the science and synergy between the elements that surround us, what we ingest (such as food or medicines) and the natural resources we consume. The need to divert textiles from our community landfills and the subsequent positive impact this has on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) have never been more important.

Doing The Numbers

In the US-EPA report entitled “Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2011”, the 2011 Waste Characterization study supports the widely accepted statistic that 85% of unwanted textiles are disposed of in a landfill and only 15% are recycled (page 10). The EPA study also reveals that 2 million tons of textiles were recycled in 2011 (page 16), or 5.7% of total municipal solid waste generation. Based on our annual consumption of clothes – especially fast fashion – in the USA, some estimate that rate to be as high as 6.5%.

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Only 15% of unwanted textiles in the U.S. are recycled – that’s the equivalent of just two states’ residents recycling out of the entire country.

So What’s the Good News?

Using EPA’s WARM methodology, the GHG benefit of recycling 2 million tons of textiles is calculated as the equivalent of removing 1 million cars from our highways. Yes, 1 million cars!! This is an impressive statistic. Just by diverting the clothes, shoes, toys and household textiles we no longer need, we are improving our air quality and reducing emissions in our communities.

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We can improve this number by recycling more of our unwanted clothing, shoes and fabric household items. Image courtesy of SMART.

How Your Community Can Help

As we become more aware of the value of recycling textiles, especially at the residential level, more benefits will be apparent.  Every municipalities across the nation is looking for new, cost effective ways reduction in landfill space, improve GHG reduction, increase economic reward and participate in social responsibility by assisting local charities. The addition of curbside textile collection by franchised solid waste haulers and recycling collection organizations will add to the improvement of diversion for municipalities and the neighborhoods where we live, work and play.

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Find a recycler in your neighborhood by calling our 24-Hr Hotline at 866-900-9308!

Our special thanks to Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (S.M.A.R.T.) for their hard work in raising awareness of textiles’ potential as a viable commercial commodity in the waste stream. SMART is a leading industry voice promoting high standards and best business practices for reducing solid waste by recycling textiles and related secondary materials. ATRS is a proud member of the SMART association and is committed to reducing textile waste thru easy, convenient recycling solutions in the 13 markets we serve nationwide.

More is available at our website.

About Bill Corrao