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What to do With 3,800,000,000 Pounds of Clothing

written by: •edited by: Carly Stockwell•updated: 12/13/2012

What's the best way to deal with unwanted clothing? Surprisingly, many items of clothing can be recycled and put to use for other purposes. Don't just throw away that old t-shirt!

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    Editor's Note: Juli Shimodaira is the Founder & CEO of Needle Happy. She currently resides in San Francisco, CA with her extremely shy fiancé and her adorable white Pomeranian, Momo.

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    I did some major Spring cleaning over the weekend and noticed that I had tons of boxes filled with clothes that I have not worn in ages. I attempted to Pile of Clothes try on some of the jeans, tops and dresses that I dug out, but that was a huge mistake. I had gained some unnecessary weight. That’s never an exciting discovery! Maybe, just maybe, I can fit into these jeans in about three months, IF I work out hard enough. Who am I kidding? Being able to fit into these jeans seems highly unlikely and unrealistic. I really have no choice but to get rid of the piles and piles of clothes that I have collected over the years, but how?

    First thing first. Distribute my clothes to friends and family. Holding a garage sale would have been the perfect idea, but my schedule did not allow for it. Status update on Facebook and Twitter was my go-to instead. I was able to clear almost half of my clothes, but what to do with the remaining half of my unwanted clothing? I started doing my research on what to do with unwanted clothing and textiles.

    As I was researching, I found some astonishing facts about apparel recycling. Did you know that the average person throws away roughly 70 pounds of clothing and textile every year? This is equivalent to 3.8 billion pounds of added waste to our landfills. My biggest question was whether or not all types of clothing are recyclable. It seems as though textiles in any condition, whether it be completely worn, torn or stained can be recycled. When cotton is recycled, it is usually turned into rags or a component for new high quality paper. Knits and woolen materials are turned into car insulation or seat stuffing. Buttons and zippers are taken off and reused again. After this recycling process, it seems that very little textile is left over, which means less clutter in our landfills.

    Whether you are donating your used clothing to non-profit organizations, bringing your clothes to recycling locations or sending in your clothes to online companies that modify your used clothing into a new product, let’s always try our very best in being responsible when getting rid of our used clothing.


  • Textile Recycling:
  • Photo by Magnus D. under CC BY 2.0
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