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Why you should recycle textiles

The following was written by Julia Wallace. The spring 2021 Arlington High School intern for the town Department of Public Works learned about textile recycling and swap sheds. Special thanks to MassDEP and Gunther Wellenstein for the resources used in this article. For more about textile recycling, click here >>

Lanie Cantor, Paul Bayer and a dog in training (not Onyx).Julia Wallace urges recycling.

In Massachusetts, 230,000 tons of textiles are simply discarded and sent off as trash annually, and only 15 percent of textiles are recycled.

This textile waste accounts for 6.3 percent of our total trash, yet 95 percent of this textile “trash” can actually be recycled through textile donation boxes or drop-off sites. Textiles cannot go in recycling bins, used for town pickup.

The reuse and recycling of textiles is the equivalent of removing 1.3 million cars from America’s highways and is equal to the impact of aluminum recycling, more impactful than plastic recycling (670 thousand cars removed) and glass recycling (175,000 cars removed).

What are textiles?

Textiles are fibers and fabrics woven together to make items like clothing and shoes.

What kinds of textiles can be donated to be recycled?

The usual shirts and pants, as well as things like belts, shoes, ties, suits, hats, handbags and purses, socks, stuffed animals, curtains and drapes, towels and bathmats, bathrobes, sheets and comforters, and ripped or stained clothing.

No, donations do not need to be in good condition; they just cannot be damp or moldy.

See a full list here >>

Find places to donate >>

In Arlington, there are also textile donation boxes at all of our elementary schools.

Where does my textile donation go?

Forty-five percent of textile donations are deemed as reusable apparel, which means that they are still able to be resold at secondhand stores or shipped to other countries who may also have a secondhand market for the apparel to go to.

Thirty percent of textile donations are still recoverable and cut up to be used as rags in industrial and commercial settings.

Twenty percent of textile donations are refurbished back into their original fiber content and repurposed to make such items furniture stuffing, upholstery, insulation or soundproofing for homes and cars, and carpets. Part of the chair you’re sitting on now may have been made from recycled textiles.

The last 5 percent of these textile donations are deemed unusable if they are wet, smelly or moldy and unfit for being repurposed or resold.

If you have old textiles just lying around, please donate them. In this case, when in doubt, don’t throw it out.


Dec. 9, 2019: Recycling in Arlington: What happens to that mess in your blue bin?
 

This factual information, which includes an appeal, was published Tuesday, May 25, 2021.

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