The average American throws away 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles each year, items that could be recycled instead of filling landfills, according to Katherine Straus, waste reduction specialist for Thurston County.
To counter this, the county’s solid waste program has launched a clothing recycling campaign called Threadcycle.
In Thurston County, clothing and textiles are the seventh largest category of waste, by weight, equaling about 6,000 tons sent to the landfill each year.
Recycling clothing is good for the environment. The EPA estimates that in 2012, 2.25 million tons of textiles were recycled in the United States. This prevented the equal amount of greenhouse gas emissions as taking 1.2 million cars off the road for a year.
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Goodwill is one place county residents can drop off clothing and textiles. Other donation sites, including Value Village, are listed at WhereDoITakeMy.org. Just click on “clothing-damaged.”
“The goal is to keep as much as possible out of the landfill,” Goodwill spokeman George White said. Goodwill markets items in a tiered system, with the most high-end items selling online. Then there are the Blue stores, where designer good are sold, and the main retail outlets.
Donations that are marketed but don’t sell are recycled on the international salvage market, White said.
But even worn-out clothing can find a new life. “Even if it can’t be used for its original purpose, it can be recycled,” Straus said.
Recycled textiles can be used as rags or auto insulation. Items can be damaged, torn or stained, or even single socks, shoes or gloves. Worn out sheets and old baseball caps can also be donated.
However, items that are wet, mildewed or have been in contact with hazardous materials are not accepted.
“At the end of the day, anything that ends up in the recycling program creates resources for our job training programs,” White said of Goodwill.