Every year in the US, we generate more than 258 million tons of municipal solid waste. Just over 16 million tons of that, or about 6%, are textile items. The vast majority of those items can be recycled. Sadly, they aren’t. Nearly 85% of textile waste ends up being tossed in the trash bin. Only 15% are recycled.
While most people realize that wearable used clothes can be donated to a local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or some other local charity, many aren’t aware that even used underwear, old rags, and torn up carpets can be donated and recycled.
When a charity or a for-profit textile collection business such as Simple Recycling receives a pile of textiles, the first thing they do is go through the items and grade them, separating the good stuff from the not-so-good stuff.
The best clothing items, shoes, etc. are typically resold through thrift shops here in the US. Clothing that is wearable but might be missing a few buttons or have some other minor flaws are typically sold in in bulk and wind up being used in overseas markets. People living in those markets tend to have more of a “repair culture” rather than a “disposal culture,” and will think nothing of patching a piece of clothing or replacing a button.
Read more at NERC.org.