Textile Waste: A Growing Environmental Threat

Shopping for new clothes is fun! It can signify the celebration of a special event like a new job or a first date, or as a reward for getting in a few extra work-outs and dropping a few pounds. New seasons bring new styles; your favorite color is no longer lime green; why didn't you tell me I look like a Muppet in a Halloween costume in that outfit?! 

Shopping for new clothes can come with an environmental price, however, and it a price which is growing exponentially each year. The amount of textile waste going into our landfills has exploded over the past few years. It is rapidly creeping up higher and higher in percentage of total waste generated in the US. The biggest contributor to the issue is the "fast-fashion" industry; manufacturers are making inexpensive, lower quality garments at a rapid pace to drive and then satisfy the demand for the next trendy thing. These cheaply produced, often poorly manufactured  garments do not hold up well over time and drive consumers to throw them away to purchase the newest best thing. 

waste table from EPA

This chart shows the increase over time in textiles generated (top line), and then the percentage of those items which wind up recycled, combusted, and landfilled. You can see how drastically the tonnage of landfill-bound textiles has increased. 

There are things we as consumers can do to help reduce this waste......

We can purchase new items more consciously; buy quality things made from natural fibers which will last a long time, as well as buying more timeless styles which might stand the test of new trends better. Items made from natural fibers, if they do wind up in a landfill, will also compost more quickly and easily than synthetic fibers. 

Buy second-hand when possible. You never know what kinds of treasures you will find at your local thrift shop or garage sale; I have found several of my favorite things at thrift shops. 

We can re-use or repair damaged items of clothing. Mending tears or holes, over-dyeing stained items, or altering the fit of older beloved clothing can extend their life-span. If something is beyond repair, consider repurposing its fabric into something else, maybe a pillow or coasters. 

Donate rather than throw away. If your items are still in good repair, donate them to a friend who could use them or take them to a thrift shop. Clothing swaps with friends are fun too....old to you will be new to someone else!

Make, Thrift, Mend by Katrina Rodabaugh is a great resource book on mending breathing new life into your existing wardrobe.

I found this article about what really happens to unwanted clothing interesting...give it a read if you'd like more information.

For our part, we have a really fun workshop to teach you how to put unwanted clothing to use.

Make your own yarn workshop

This workshop on how to make your own yarn will show you how to turn just about any kind of fabric you have laying around into functional yarn that can be used for many things. For the rest of the month of May, all proceeds from this workshop will be donated to the Help Center, a suicide hotline and mental health support organization here in the Gallatin Valley. The workshop is on-demand so you can watch and re-watch it at your convenience. Check it out, you'll be surprised by how easy and fun it is to do your part to reduce textile waste!

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