We all have them; those questionable towels, stained shirts, old sheets and holey socks. No matter what may be wrong with your pre-loved textiles, they are still too good for the trash!
Audits done in 2011 at several Massachusetts disposal facilities revealed that on average, a Massachusetts resident throws away about 70 pounds of unwanted clothing, footwear and textiles per year.
This may be due, in part, to the popular, yet untrue, notion that charities and textile recyclers will only accept gently used items that can easily be resold. Everyone has looked at an old t-shirt and said to themselves “no one will want this”, and then tossed it into the trash.
But wait! Someone DOES want it!
You may not realize it, but even the most tattered sheet, or most outgrown stuffed animal in your home can be recycled. They just have to be dry, and reasonably clean (Stains are fine!)
“We want the public to know all clothing and household textiles, such as tablecloths, sheets, shoes, belts and stuffed animals, can be recycled,” Larry Groipen, past president of the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART) and chief of ERC Wiping Products in Lynn, said. “As long as the items are clean, even if they are stained or damaged, there is a recycling use for the material.”
So, what happens to your unwanted items after you drop them in a donation box?
Regardless of who the box belongs to; the Goodwill, Salvation Army, Red Cross, Planet Aid or any of the other organizations with donation boxes, the items are first hand sorted by workers.
The ‘gently used’ items are usually sold in the local thrift stores that raise money for charities and provide us with opportunity for bargain priced items!
The items that don’t make it to the thrift store shelves are sent to ‘rag graders’, who sort the items based on material type, condition, quality and color. Some of this material is baled and exported to developing countries where they rely on low-cost items for clothing, and for material to make new items.
Absorbent rags are cut up and sold to commercial companies as wiping cloths. The Springfield DPW even purchases them!
Anything left that cannot be used as rags are shredded and repurposed into fibers for all kinds of things like insulation, carpet padding, and furniture stuffing.
Paul Curry of Bay State Textiles stresses that “when municipalities are informing the public, keep the message simple! Everything should be dry, but we accept the good – gently used clothing, the bad – those ripped jeans with the broken zipper, and the ugly – that sweater Aunt Edna gave you in 1978.”
So as you can see, donating your unwanted textiles employs hundreds of Massachusetts workers and recognizes the value of materials that would otherwise be wasted!