Think Outside The Bin

It's becoming second nature to throw food scraps in the compost and empty boxes into the recycle bin. But what about unwanted clothing? There's a responsible place for these items too, and it's not your garbage can.

When we consider our waste stream, it's clear there are barriers preventing people from properly disposing of unwanted clothing, turning our landfills into laundry piles. Not everyone is aware that clothing and textiles can be reused or recycled, or how to donate these items to keep them out of landfills.

This America Recycles Day, harness the power of reuse by thinking outside of your blue recycling bin and challenging yourself and others to make sure clothing doesn't end up in the trash.

Spread the word

Because clothing is such an essential part of our lives, it's easy to overlook the overwhelmingly negative impact it has on our environment. Consider this: manufacturing a single cotton T-shirt uses up to 700 gallons of water, and after it's tossed into a trash can and left in a landfill to decompose, that same shirt then releases toxic air pollutants, including methane and carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.

The more we know about and understand the impact our clothing footprint has on the environment, the more we can do to change. By sharing your knowledge about clothing reuse and recycling, not only can you help inform your friends, peers and coworkers, you just might learn something new too.

Yes, you can donate that!

To fight the urge to throw unwanted items into the trash, Savers, a purpose driven thrift retailer, is on a mission to clarify common misconceptions about clothing reuse and recycling. Over 95 percent of the textile and clothing waste in landfills is suitable for reuse or recycling, creating numerous opportunities to ensure these items receive a second or even third life through reuse.

Our nonprofit partners accept clothing and textiles in any condition, except when wet, mildewed or heavily-soiled. This is because even when clothing is worn-out, ripped or stained and cannot be reused in its current state, it can still be recycled and kept out of a landfill. According to the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (SMART) association, only five percent of post-consumer textiles are unusable.

At Savers, if we can't give an item another life through reuse, there are several ways we can properly recycle clothing. If the zipper on a pair of jeans is broken or the waistband worn-out, the garment can be deconstructed and used as a filler in housing insulation and sleeping bags. Other garments can be turned into rags and resold. It's about making the most out of every scrap of fabric.

Rethink Reuse

Starting these conversations will spread the word and hopefully inspire people to adopt new habits. Unfortunately, many feel that the garbage can is still the most convenient and low-cost disposal method for clothing and textiles. In fact, Savers' State of Reuse Report found that one in three people who don't donate their used goods said it's just easier to throw things out.

Despite these challenges, nonprofits and municipalities are finding new and innovative ways to collect unwanted goods. Drop-off boxes and donation centers provide a convenient way to ensure your unwanted goods make it from your car to a sorting station. Start by finding a location close to you. If there's not a drop-off site near you, schedule a pick-up online or over the phone with your local nonprofit.

Dedicate a box to reuse

Today, 85 percent of clothing and textiles end up in landfills. The opportunity to truly make a difference and reduce the amount of clothing waste is significant. Make it a goal to minimize your clothing waste by using a box or bag for your unwanted clothing items; when it's full take the bag to your nearest donation station or schedule a pick-up online with a local nonprofit. Together we can reuse and recycle more goods than the items that fit in our blue recycling bins.