Recycle/Recraft/Re-fashion Your Clothing

by Kim   |   February 18, 2009

Some FAQs About Used Clothes
Everyone knows you shouldn't just throw wearable clothing into the trash, right? Not necessarily. The EPA estimates that 4.5%, or 4 million tons, of all waste sent to municipal landfills is textiles. Considering that most of this amount is post-consumer textile waste, 99% of which is recyclable, we could be doing a lot better, suggests Harmony Enterprises, a waste management company. Diverting usable clothing from the landfill to the thrift shop just makes sense, but donating used clothes isn't the full story.

What about those articles too worn to be of use to anyone? This clothing is baled, sold, and then turned into recycled fibers for use in new clothes or upholstery stuffing.  So still send your tattered threads to the thrift store--just make sure they're clean first. One dirty piece of clothing can contaminate an entire bale, which will be sent to the landfill.

Why DIY? There are tons of articles with instructions on how to turn your socks into a wristband, or a placemat into a purse. Some require little to no sewing experience.

Are you more of a no-sew kind of crafty? Try this No-Sew Rag Rug project.

Should your house welcome the return of the rag? Your grandmother may have used rags for cleaning, but they've fallen out of fashion. Keep a container of used rags for a washable alternative to sponges.

Buying clothes for a season and then sending them to the thrift store doesn't hurt, right? Not necessarily. Sure, last season's pants might end up in one of the booming markets for reused clothing in Africa, Asia, or Latin America, but how much carbon is expended during shipping? Further, this second-hand market undercuts local clothing businesses in those areas.  Read the full article from the Times UK about the trend for "disposable clothing."

Should you ever buy clothes with their demise in mind? Patagonia is one clothing company with a takeback program for its Capilene material. The new company, Recycle A Tee, will be offering a organic clothes with takeback credit system that will recycle them into new duds.

Want 37 more tips? Check out the Huffington Post's 37 Reuses for Old Clothes.

A piece of advice that all of us could follow is changing our cultural atttitude towards clothes. Truly fashionable people find their own style and simply fine-tune it over the years, with few major departures. Dressing like a trend-setter rather than a trend-follower means fewer "fashion-victim" mistakes and fewer "disposable clothes" sent to the thrift store.

Ultimately, our throwaway culture is responsible for many of our environmental problems, so choosing higher-quality, longer, lasting articles is a one way to set a new trend. Read more about fair trade and organic clothes in the Conscious Consumer Marketplace.