Alameda County’s Online Guide for Reuse, Repair, and Recycling

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Old Clothing and Textiles

Did you know that we send millions of pounds of textiles such as clothing, sheets, and towels to the landfill each year? Coupled with the enormous environmental impact textile production has on the environment, and we’ve got a problem.

Although textile recycling is available, the best way to reduce these environmental impacts is by reducing the amount of textiles we purchase, use, and dispose.

Environmental Impacts of Clothing

According to CalRecycle, More than 700 gallons of water are used to produce one cotton t-shirt or one pair of jeans. The climate impact of manufacturing one t-shirt is equivalent to driving a car for about 10 miles. The garment industry globally produces 150 billion pieces per year, which is enough for every person on the planet to have 20 new pieces of clothing per year.

How to Manage Textile Waste Responsibly

Here’s what you can do to make a difference in reducing the environmental impacts of textile manufacturing.

  • Shop your closet and resurface older items instead of buying new. You never know what you’ll find, and you'll immediately reduce your carbon footprint. 
  • Resist "fast fashion" trends and purchase higher-quality clothing that lasts longer. 
  • Take your unwanted clothing shopping with you. Some retailers host donation bins and offer shopping discounts when you deposit your clothes.
  • Shop for second-hand items at local consignment stores like Goodwill, or online stores like Poshmark and thredUP.
  • Repurpose: old t-shirts make great rags and transform into handy reusable bags, too. 

If you do need to move something on, donate it responsibly. Most of the 39 million pounds of textiles we send to the waste stream each year can be reused or recycled into insulation material, flooring, packaging, or cushioning in stuffed toys, insoles, and bags.

At the larger charity thrifts, like Goodwill and Salvation Army, scraps and seriously damaged items are cut into industrial rags or shredded into pulp. The shredded fabric, for the most part, will become mattress stuffing, insulation, or some other type of padding.  Search RE:Source to find local organizations that accept textile donations.

More resources and information about How to Manage Textile Waste Responsibly can be found here:

https://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/reducewaste/textiles

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