Clothes unsalvageable even for the Salvation Army? This September, New York City will unveil one of the largest textile-recycling initiatives in the country. Its purpose: To make recycling unwanted threads as pain-free as pitching them in the garbage—no small feat, considering that a Goodwill Industries survey of 600 North American adults found that more than half wouldn’t travel more than 10 minutes to save their duds from the dumpster.
Gotham officials have their work cut out for them. Over 190,000 tons of textiles made their way into Big Apple landfills in 2008 alone, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “You can open a black bag at the landfill and see what looks like new clothing,” Robert Lange, the director of Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling in New York, tells the Associated Press. “It is easier to throw it out than recycle.”
Over 190,000 tons of textiles made their way into Big Apple landfills in 2008 alone, according to the EPA.
The city, which is looking to install 50 clothing-collection bins in high-traffic areas, is currently taking bids for a 10- to 15-year contract with a nonprofit organization that will be responsible for them. Besides the usual suspects (Goodwill et. al.), would-be overseers include Wearable Collections, a New Jersey-based textiles-recycling group that picks up clean clothing, shoes, and hats for resale to impoverished countries at reduced costs. Unusable togs like your tattered highschool sweatshirt are recycled as work rags or converted into fiber for mattresses and sofas.
Officials say that if their campaign proves successful, it could pave the way for a nationwide movement to recycle still-serviceable clothing. Better yet, it could create jobs, according to Brenda Platt, co-director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance, who notes that the textile-recycling industry generates 85 times more jobs than landfills.