Fiber matters – in more ways than one. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away over 13 million tons of clothing annually. New Yorkers discard over 700,000 tons of unwanted fabric, clothing, shoes and textiles each year, according to the New York State Product Stewardship Council. Much of our trash in New York is shipped long distances away from where it is generated to where it is actually landfilled – or incinerated - for disposal.
From a green perspective, reusing, recycling and recovering as much as possible saves on fuel/energy consumption, road wear & tear, tipping fees and climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions to name a few benefits.
Fortunately, efforts are being made to recover unwanted textiles. Re-Clothe New York is a coalition of textile recyclers, non-profit reuse organizations and local governments working together to increase the quantity of textiles recovered for reuse and recycling in New York State. The NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation and Re-Clothe NY partners estimate that the market value of discarded textiles in the State exceeds $130 million and that over 1,000 jobs would be created across NY if those materials were recovered for reuse and recycling.
Any unwanted clean, dry and odorless clothing, footwear, textile and accessory (hats, belts, gloves, ties and bathrobes!) can and should be recycled and it’s a snap to do. Even torn, worn & stained items are acceptable! Convenient recycling drop boxes for these materials are available in many communities, at transfer stations, volunteer fire departments, places of worship, supermarkets and gas stations. NYSAR – the New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling – offers a convenient online tool to find local clothing drop off locations: http://www.nysar3.org/textile_recovery_locations.php Not every community drop off facility will appear but this tool does offer many textile recycling options close to home.
So what happens to recovered textiles? Charities that form the initial collection box ‘backbone’ select good clothing to offer for reuse in local thrift stores. Remaining textiles are sold to recyclers that salvage, reuse, repurpose and convert products to new uses like insulation, carpet padding, sound deadening panels and pulp for remanufacture. Very little is wasted and much environmental good comes away from the reclaimed product. Recycling unwanted textiles helps your community, the environment and the local economy. Please do your part and “Re-Clothe” New York!
– Bill Cutler