Archive for the ‘Retextil Community’ Category
We’ve switched to reusable bags, segregated our packaging, and send off our paper and plastic for recycling. But what do we do with our used clothes? Some of us donate them, but at the rate the average American buys and discards fashion, donations simply can’t keep up with the volume of fabric being produced and thrown away.
One way to help curb the waste is recycling clothes for cash. It works in much the same way as selling old aluminum cans and plastic bottles—you send your used textiles off to a recycling plant, which then pays you by the weight. It’s no ticket to luxury; one can get about $1 per kilo accepted. But recycling was never about money—it’s about doing your part to help the environment, and getting in a bit of spring cleaning at the same time.
Textiles for recycling are classified according to type, color, and condition. Most of the time, clothes are still wearable, they are simply cleaned and donated to charity. The rest is what gets reused or recycled. Some fabrics are combed out and combined with other textiles to create a new cloth, which is then made into new clothes. Several designers have picked up on the trend and come up with clothes that don’t even look recycled—and even if you knew, they’re stylish enough that it doesn’t really matter.
Other textiles are shredded and used to fill mattresses or furniture. These are usually the ones that are too small to be processed or don’t have the right composition. They don’t make hotel-grade pillows, but they make serviceable ones where there would otherwise just be waste.
Heavier materials such as leather and carpeting also fall under textile, but don’t undergo the same processes. For one thing, there are usually other materials, such as rubber and metal, mixed into the item. This means they have to be separated manually for the textile itself to be used. If you have old shoes and upholstered furniture to donate, separate them from your clothing to make sure they get processed properly.
Some would argue that textile recycling isn’t recycling per se, since they all eventually end up in the trash. Indeed, the Environmental Protection Agency considers the practice a diversion rather than recycling. But definitions aside, recycling clothes for cash is a much better way to get rid of old possessions, and help the planet while you’re at it.
Millions of rags get used and discarded every day. We usually don’t see it with only three or four rags lying around in our homes, but when you think of it in the industrial scale—50-floor office buildings and hotel rooms, for example—it comes down to barrels and barrels of dirty fabric, all ending up in the trash bins and eventually in landfills. Cleaning is a dirty job, but cleaning up after cleaning is even dirtier.
Companies typically order rags by the barrel and use each piece only once. But most of these rags are good for at least a couple more uses—it’s just cheaper for most companies to buy new ones instead of cleaning and drying the old ones. As a result, rags continue to make up a significant part of business waste, especially in major cities. Fortunately, there’s a way around it.
Rag recycling is a fairly new industry that has cropped up alongside textile and leather recycling. As one would expect, it’s more of a business practice than a household one, so services aren’t as widespread. A basic service involves picking up used rags from the site, cleaning them at a facility, and delivering newly washed ones to clients. Rather than curb-side pickups or drop-offs, rag recyclers usually work directly with businesses, picking up their used rags and delivering fresh ones on the site.
Other groups can manufacture rags out of used fabrics, such as old clothes and curtains. These rags are usually classified by grade, so buyers can choose from cheap, general-purpose rags to “premium” quality white rags. The latter can withstand more uses and is therefore cheaper in the long run, but may have gone through additional treatment, such as bleaching and starching.
Rags that are no longer usable are sometimes cleaned, shredded, and used as filler material. You may find them in furniture, mattresses, low-cost car seats, and similar products. This is often their last chance at life, as the final product is eventually discarded. In this sense, rag recycling is more of a diversionary tactic than recycling per se, as the fabric still ends up becoming waste.
That’s not to say recycling your rags is useless; on the contrary, businesses are in a much better position to make a difference because of the scale of their usage. A barrel of rags may not seem much compared to a city landfill, but if every office building picked up the habit, that’s several tons of fabric that’s kept off the bins and given a second use.
Many of us “recycle” our clothes by giving them away or selling them, but with stores coming up with new designs every season, it’s going to take a lot of giving to keep up with the volume. A better way to get rid of clothes you no longer plan on using is to recycle them. Not only will they be given a new purpose and kept out of the incinerators; they can even earn you a bit of pocket money!
To be sure, most people only make a few dollars when they recycle clothes for cash. The typical rate is about $1 per kilo. But it’s better than nothing—and what really matters isn’t the money, but what you’re doing for the environment. A recent study showed that women buy about half their body weight in clothes per year, and discard just as much. A lot of it ends up in the trash bins, adding to the mountains of waste we’re already making. By recycling instead of discarding, you make a little less waste while possibly helping out someone in need.
How are clothes recycled, exactly? Recycling is actually a broad term when applied to textiles. If they’re still in good condition—sometimes people just outgrow them or change their minds—the clothes can be given away to shelters and orphanages, so it’s better defined as reusing. If they’re no longer wearable, they are either broken down into fibers and combined with other textiles to make new fabric, or shredded and used as fillers for mattresses, furniture, and or car seats. In the latter sense, they aren’t so much recycled as “diverted”—since they still get thrown away eventually, we’re only squeezing a bit more use out of them before they are officially discarded.
That doesn’t mean you don’t do much good when you recycle clothes for cash. For one thing, it saves the world money—instead of buying new raw material for clothes and furniture, they can use recycled and cut down on their consumption. For another, it helps people in need, whether it’s children in orphanages or people in disaster-stricken areas. So next time you spring-clean your closet, don’t head straight to the bin—look for a clothes recycling center and your area and give your old wardrobe a second chance at life.
You’ve probably recycled soda cans for nickels, but did you know you could also get cash for your old clothes? We’re not talking about garage sales—we mean exchanging your old, tattered, unusable clothes, even old shoes and carpets, to a recycling center and get paid for it. It’s not much—a typical plant will pay about $1 per kilo—but when you consider its environmental benefits, clothes recycling for cash offers a pretty sweet deal.
Cloth recycling involves repackaging old clothes so that they can be used again, breaking them up and processing them into new fabric, or using them for other products. It all depends on the type and condition of the clothes. Clothes that are still wearable (e.g. those that have been outgrown) are most often donated to charities, such as children’s centers. Otherwise, they can be combed into separate fibers to make “recycled” fabric, which in turn is used for new clothes. The textiles are sorted according to material and color so that they don’t need artificial dyes and processing. Sometimes, the material is shredded and used to fill furniture, mattresses, and similar products.
The term “recycling” can be misleading in this sense, because textiles, being a mix of biodegradable and non-biodegradable material, will still eventually end up as waste. Reusing them therefore only prolongs their life for a few years before they are discarded. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t include fabrics when surveying recycled material. Of course, this doesn’t make it any less beneficial—whatever keeps your old stuff out of the landfills is good for the environment.
Not all textiles will be accepted at plants—some places are smaller and can only process light materials like cotton and wool. Shoes, carpets, and other heavy materials may need to be segregated and recycled elsewhere, usually in bigger plants. Make sure to find out where you can donate these items so they actually get reused or recycled, rather than thrown into the landfills.
Most cities have facilities that accept old textiles, but not all offer clothes recycling for cash. In some U.S. cities, for example, old clothes are picked up on scheduled days from the curbside, much like garbage and plastic and paper recycling. Others have a drop-box where you simply drop your bag in and leave. If you want to get something back for it, you can look up larger organizations or find a private processing plant.
Cloth recycling isn’t new, but it has only recently begun to attract attention. The sheer volume of clothes being produced and discarded every day is starting to catch up to us, and we’re now left with more textile than we can donate or reuse. And more is being made as we speak. By recycling our old clothes instead of throwing them in the bin, we not only give them a second chance at life—we also keep them out of the landfills.
The term itself is broad—cloth recycling can be as simple as donating your old clothes to a children’s center, or sending them to a processing plant where they can be remade into new clothes and other products. In the strictest sense it’s not even considered recycling, as most textiles are a mix of organic and non-biodegradable materials (e.g. cotton-polyester blends) and therefore will eventually end up as waste. Nevertheless, it’s a step up from putting fabric directly in the bin.
The composition and condition of the textile determines what happens to it at the recycling plant. At most centers they are manually sorted into those that can still be worn and those that are no longer usable. The latter may be cleaned and donated, and the rest processed into new products. There are different ways of doing this—the fibers can be separated and woven into new cloth, or the old cloth itself can be made into industrial rags or used to fill mattresses and furniture. Textiles used for the former are usually sorted by color and material so that they don’t need any additional treatment or coloring, which will cancel out any environmental benefits.
Shoes, leather goods, upholstery, and carpeting can also be recycled, although the processing is different from that used in regular fabric. They are usually a mix of several different materials (i.e. rubber and leather, metal and cloth), so they cannot be recycled right away. If you have such items to discard, make sure your local center accepts them; otherwise they might just end up in the landfill anyway.
Several major cities in the U.S. have cloth recycling programs, although none are as widespread as plastic or paper recycling. A few areas have had curbside pickups for used cloth for the last several decades. However, your best bet if you have clothes to recycle is to contact your local environmental office, or look online for relevant non-profits in your area.