From diapers to Starbucks cups, there are massive recycling initiatives throughout the nation for a variety of goods but a single business is tackling the topic of our wardrobes and what we do when we dispose of clothing. USAgain is a green enterprise with the following mission: to present consumers with a practical and eco-friendly option to rid themselves of excess clothing, which we divert from wasting in landfills for resale here inside the US and abroad. In accordance to their website, “extending the life of clothing and shoes reduces environmental degradation from the manufacturing of new clothes and makes for a healthier planet.”
But is the need seriously that great? PERFORMANCE FABRIC Well, according to the EPA, 85% of unwanted clothing is discarded and accounts for more than 4% of municipal solid waste volume. In 2005, the quantity of discarded garments in the United States reached 8 million tons and it has only increased since then. Let’s assume that most of that clothing isn’t organic and you have a great deal of old shirts and pants clogging up a landfill. Even scarier is the fact that since 1980, the quantity of US clothing consumption has quintupled!
The environmental impact of the consumer can be a big one and now what we do with old clothing is as important as how we shop for new clothing. It can take 700 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to produce a t-shirt plus the crop itself is extremely dependent on pesticide use. If you take into account how many emissions are released into the atmosphere (including voc’s and acid gases), there is a scary quantity of pollution involved in some textile manufacturing.
Purchasing secondhand clothing is one particular way to shop smarter for the earth. In accordance to USAgain, each and every pound of apparel that’s worn again saves seven pounds of greenhouse gases. And the web site even offers live stats – currently it’s at 379,550,897 items saved from landfills, 2,413,318,432 lbs of CO2 saved from entering the atmosphere and 1,971,659 cubic yards of landfill space saved.
San Francisco will be the latest main metropolitan area to welcome the collection bins and since September, over 50,000 pounds of old clothing have found their way to them. The donated apparel will be sorted and will either be sold to final users (i.e – wholesalers or thrift stores) or it will be redistributed for resale in the US, Central America, Europe, Asia and South America where folks can buy used clothing for a fraction of what new ones would cost.
And while USAgain has taken some criticism about being a for-profit recycling operation (one that can not supply a donor with a tax-return option), CEO Mattias Wallander argues that being a for-profit organization permits them to expand the notion of clothing recycling and more quickly place collection bins in handy locations to make textile recycling simpler for the donor.
“Just as your collectors of cardboard, aluminum and paper, they are all for profit entities, we see clothing as needed items that need to be recycled more,” Bostic said.