You CAN Donate Ripped And Stained Clothing

Summer is coming.  Are you switching out your winter for summer clothes?  What do you do with clothes you will no longer wear or that don’t fit? 
There are MANY bins around that will accept old clothing.  Salvation Army, Goodwill, New England Clothes Recycling, plus various charities such as The Wish Project.
If your clothes are in good condition, donate them to a charity like The Wish Project .  These charities give clothing straight to people who need it.  They must be in wearable condition – no stains or rips.
So what do you do with items that are torn, broken in some way or stained beyond help?  DONATE THEM to Salvation Army, Goodwill or the (cream colored) NE Clothing Recycling bins around town.  These organizations work with members of the textile industry to recycle everything possible.  Members of the nonprofit trade association SMART (Secondary Materials And Recycling Textiles) include companies that work with used clothing, wiping materials (rags) and the fiber industry.
SMART members purchase excess textiles from charities and other collectors of clothing.  They then sort and grade the clothing based on condition.
  • 45% is generally exported to lesser developed countries where demand is high.  We were told by a member of SMART that many people in foreign countries will purchase this clothing, fix it, then resell it to make a living.
  • 30% become wiping and polishing cloths unused in commercial areas.
  • 20% is reprocessed into fibers for furniture stuffing, upholstery, insulation, yarn etc.
  • 5% is unusable and gets, truly, thrown out.
The EPA estimates that the average person throws away 70 lbs of clothing annually.  My guess is that most of that comes from children!  They outgrow items very quickly or are tough on them causing stains or rips.
The generic term textiles is used to mean any clothing, fabric, sheets, towels, etc.  According to EPA, textiles made up 5.2% of the waste steam in 2010.  Of this waste, only 15% is recycled in some way.  That means there is a lot of room for improvement.  The other 85%, making up over 11 million tons of clothing, could be recycled.  It may not seem like much given that it is a small percentage of the total waste.  But think about the jobs it creates along the way, the money charities can raise, and the energy that is saved because new items aren’t being made.  And it’s easy!
We want the public to know all clothing andhousehold textiles such as tablecloths, sheets, shoes, belts, and stuffed animals can be recycled.  As long as the items are clean, even if they are stained or damaged, there is a recycling use for the material,” says Larry Groipen, SMART President and President of ERC Wiping Products (Lynn, MA).  
MassDEP  didn’t know these statistics until recently. Last fall then began working with SMART to get the word out that ALL textiles can be recycled in some way.
As long as they are dry, clean and free from mildew or hazardous materials like oil or paint.
Where do you recycle clothes?
Photo on top used under Creative Commons license by Alvimann/Flickr

This post was shared at Green Sisterhood


5 Responses to You CAN Donate Ripped And Stained Clothing

  1. srambach June 6, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    There was an interesting piece on WBUR’s On Point this morning about cheap fashion:
    I personally don’t know where to get quality clothing anymore. Even the fabric in the pieces from my old standbys LLBean and Land’s End seem to be getting thinner and wear out more quickly. The author says that quality is getting so poor that a growing percentage of items can’t be successfully reused/recycled.

  2. Kristina (The Greening Of Westford) June 6, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

    I have noticed a decline in quality too. You just can’t find good sheets, towels, or clothing even if you are willing to pay for it. I’ll have to listen the WBUR piece. It’s my understanding from listening to SMART President Larry Groipen speak at MassRecycle’s recent conference that they are able to recycle all but 5% of the clothing they receive – it may be shredded and used a stuffing, but it’s not in a landfill.

  3. Laura June 7, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    THANKS for the information
    We recycle all our clothes (except underthings) in the bins around town and I am so grateful for the convenience.

  4. CelloMom June 12, 2012 at 1:31 am #

    I’ve been reading a bunch of books on trash lately (including the marvellous “Rubbish!” by the Garbage Project), and most of them point out that recycling is a ancient phenomenon. Until the 1950s, you didn’t have to worry about where to discard your clothing and linens because, after you wore them down to nothing, and re-incarnated them (at least twice, or more) into some other useful item, and _those_ were worn down to nothing, the rag man would come collect them, and they would be made into paper.
    Of course, we’re talking about cotton and linen items (wool can be made into felt and used almost endlessly). There was a good price on those rags, because it was a limited commodity of high quality. Because recycling synthetic clothing, like all plastic recycling, is problematic: it ends up getting downcycled rather than recycled. (And I don’t believe that exporting our trash is a sustainable solution).
    Maybe it’s time to snuff the recycling conundrum at its source: if we buy less (a lot less), and buy natural fiber, and make it last, finding a place to recycle our clothes wouldn’t be a big deal. And we’d save a bundle in the process.


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