Have you wondered what to do with unwanted clothes?
Do they go in the trash or is there another option?
Do our clothes ever disappear?
In this blog, you will learn about what happens to our unwanted clothes and how you can help our environment by properly disposing of them.
This guest blog post is by Jasmine Scott, a graduate student studying data science at St. Louis University.
Where do my textiles go when I throw them in the trash?
If you throw textiles (e.g., clothes, bedding and towels) away in the trash, they end up in a municipal solid waste (MSW) landfill with other household waste. A landfill is a specific site dedicated to the disposal of waste by using a method that involves burying waste. Landfills are typically built away from urban areas in geographical locations distant from faults, wetlands, flood plains or other restricted areas. There are 2,611 landfills in the United States.
What happens to my textiles once they reach a landfill?
Under conditions of a landfill, textiles experience challenges with breaking down due to limited sunlight and oxygen exposure. Thus, the textiles undergo a process called anaerobic digestion. During anaerobic digestion, fibers release a chemical called methane. Although it is a significant energy source often used in combustion engines, methane is a potent greenhouse gas. If it is not captured, methane becomes a huge contributor to global warming. Textiles in the landfill can start generating methane within one year of anaerobic digestion.
Unfortunately, the negative effects of improper textile disposal do not stop there. As textiles continue to slowly breakdown, dyes and other chemicals from the fabric leak into the soil and contaminate groundwater that eventually reach our rivers, lakes and oceans.
What is the overall impact of throwing my textiles in the trash?
The Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART) states that an average American throws away 81 pounds of clothes each year. To put that in perspective, with a national population of nearly 330 million, that’s approximately 26.7 billion pounds of textiles sent to the landfill EVERY year!
What are my textile disposal options here in St. Louis?
Before you throw away your textiles, consider these options:
- Donate your textiles to an organization for resale or reuse.
- Recycle your textiles so fibers can be repurposed for something new.
In the St. Louis area, you can drop off your donations or textiles to be recycled at the organizations listed below. Please visit their websites for more details on additional locations, as well as the type of material and quality they will accept.
Address: 4928 Christy Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63116
Address: 4121 Forest Park Ave, St. Louis, MO 63108
3. Remains Inc.
Address: 3340 Morganford Rd, St. Louis, MO 63116
Address: 4200 Forest Park Ave, St. Louis, MO 63108
Address: 10 locations within Saint Louis City. Find one near you here.
6. ReFresh STL
Address: 1710 S Brentwood Blvd, Brentwood, MO 63144
Address: 9618 Watson Rd, St. Louis, MO 63126
Next time you think about tossing your unwanted textiles in the trash, take time to explore available disposal options in your community. You can contact these organizations listed above to locate more drop-off sites near you. If we all take small steps to do better at disposing our textile waste, we will have a big impact on our environment!
Check out Saint Louis City Recycles database to search for locations to recycle or donate textiles and many more items.
- Nysar3.org. (2017). Re-Clothe NY. [online] Available at: https://www.nysar3.org/page/re-clothe-ny-78.html.
- Rossingol, K. (2014). A Peek Inside a Landfill – Planet Aid, Inc. [online] Planetaid.org. Available at: https://www.planetaid.org/blog/the-gas-from-your-clothes.
- Smartasn.org. (2012). Textile Recycling Fact Sheet. [online] Available at: https://www.smartasn.org/SMARTASN/assets/File/resources/Textile_Recycling_Fact_Sheet.pdf.
- US EPA. (2018). Basic Information about Landfill Gas | US EPA. [online] Available at: https://www.epa.gov/lmop/basic-information-about-landfill-gas.
- US EPA. (2018). Textiles: Material-Specific Data | US EPA. [online] Available at: https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/textiles-material-specific-data.
- Waller, R. (1982). Contamination of Groundwater. [online] Usgs.gov. Available at: https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/contamination-groundwater?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects.
- BIODEGRADE ORGANIC TEXTILE. Retrieved 6 December 2019, from https://www.close-the-loop.be/en/phase/3/end-of-life#tab-26
- Project and Landfill Data by State | US EPA. (2019). Retrieved 6 December 2019, from https://www.epa.gov/lmop/project-and-landfill-data-state
- Methane Capture and Use | A Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change | US EPA. Retrieved 6 December 2019, from https://archive.epa.gov/climatechange/kids/solutions/technologies/methane.html
- Municipal Solid Waste Landfills | US EPA. Retrieved 6 December 2019, from https://www.epa.gov/landfills/municipal-solid-waste-landfills
Keywords: textile recycling, sustainable fashion practices, anaerobic digestion, landfills, methane, greenhouse gas emissions