Archive for the ‘Retextil Community’ Category

How To Recycle Textile Products

Plastic and paper are often the focus of recycling programs around North America. Most people know how to separate their packaging for the recycling plants. But textiles—a material that’s just as commonly used in the developed world—are not given as much attention, and in some cities not even at all. Donation programs such as the Salvation Army and the Goodwill Foundation do their part, but with new clothes being made every day, donating simply can’t keep up with the volume of unwanted textile in the market.

One way to address the problem is through textile recycling programs. Although it’s a fairly young industry, interest is picking up in several major cities and on the internet. Many groups have begun offering to recycle textile products, from clothes to curtains to kitchen rags, and either turning them into new products or reconditioning them to be worn again. Some American communities have been running such programs since the 1990s, and a growing number of clothing companies now accept their own products back for recycling.

What happens to old clothes when they are recycled depends on their type and condition. Companies usually sort them manually so that those still in good condition are simply donated or reused, and the rest blended into new “recycled” cloth. The clothes usually have to be sorted by color and material so that no dyeing or additional treatments are necessary. Clothes made from these fabrics are getting increased recognition in fashion circles. Textiles in bad condition or too small to be reprocessed can be turned into industrial rags or sometimes used as filling for mattresses.

Textile recycling doesn’t technically qualify as recycling, as the material itself will eventually become waste. Rather, it’s a way of diverting unneeded textiles so that they get used a second time instead of going immediately into the waste stream. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t count used textiles when calculating the volume of materials for recycling. Nevertheless, they support the practice and work alongside environmental groups to promote it in small communities.

Shoes, carpets, and other heavy materials also fall under the textile category, although not all centers will accept them for recycling. Leather recycling is considered a specialized sub-category as the process required to clean and repurpose them is different from fibrous textiles. When you go through your old clothes for recycling, make sure to separate the two—if you’re not sure, just put heavier items in a different pile—so that unsuitable materials don’t get thrown out.