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What Happens to Old Clothes?

Donating clothes that you don’t want, or that you don’t fit into anymore, is a good thing. The secondhand clothing industry employs 100,000 workers and creates $1 billion USD in wages in the United States alone. But the Council for Textile Recycling estimates that only 20 percent of those clothes are ever sold. And although tons of clothing are shipped to countries in the developing world, huge amounts end up in landfills. It is estimated that each year, the average American tosses away 80 pounds (36.3 kg) of clothes, amounting to 14 million tons of waste -- or more.

No good options for old clothes:

  • When natural fibers such as cotton, linen, and silk are buried in a landfill, the result is similar to food waste, as the potent greenhouse gas methane is released as the materials degrade.

  • Synthetic fibers -- such as polyester, nylon, and acrylic -- are basically a type of plastic, made from petroleum. These items take hundreds of years, or more, to degrade.

  • Clothing that is not reused is often re-purposed into rags or other items. But according to Greenpeace in 2016, “full recycling of clothing into new fibers is still far from commercially viable.”

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More Info: Newsweek

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