- Americans generate 25 billion pounds of textile waste every year — about 82 pounds per person — however only 15% of it is donated or recycled. The rest ends up in the landfill, representing 5.2% of all of the trash generated in the U.S., according to the Council for Textile Recycling.
- Elizabeth Cline, author of the book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Price of Cheap Fashion, blames both retailers and consumers for the amounts of textile waste reaching the landfill. Cline says that clothing consumption is five times higher today than it was in the 1980s, while production of clothing is also becoming cheaper and more plentiful.
- Organizations like Wearable Collections are working with municipalities to promote textile collections and recycling. Some retailers like American Eagle and Levi’s are even participating in textile recycling programs to put a dent in combating the waste.
As the concept of a circular economy becomes more integrated into the waste and recycling industry, retailers and manufacturers are joining the movement to ensure that products are recycled and reused. While some brands team up with companies like I:CO to recycle clothing into new products, other brands like Patagonia are using those recycled fibers (and other recycled products) in their new apparel.
Jill Dumain, Patagonia's director of environmental strategy, says making an impact as a retailer is not as easy as it may seem due to high costs of recycling. And without changing the perception of the consumer, textiles will continue to head to landfills.
"People need to learn how to buy less and companies need to learn how to be profitable in selling less," she said. "Something has to give. Something has to fundamentally shift in the consumption world that reduces the pressure on the raw materials, which reduces pressure on the planet and reduces the pressure on the people who make all this stuff all over the world."
Textile recycling will be a slow yet crucial practice to introduce to industry consumers, just as it has been for food waste. Some municipalities are considering recycling kiosks or reward systems in order to promote textile recycling, however more will need to be done in order to make progress.