By Kaveri Marathe, Founder and CEO of Texiles, a clothing recycling startup based in Washington, DC.
Clothing waste has become a serious environmental problem for the United States. Americans throw out 80 pounds of clothing per person every year on average. All this adds up to 13 million tons per year, or 6% of landfill space. Yet, surprisingly, most of the textile material that ends up in the trash, in fact, can be recycled. Old clothing that is no longer considered wearable, such as garments with stains or holes, can be shredded down and converted into useful inputs for the housing and automotive industries, like insulation, carpet underlay, protective padding, and stuffing for cushions. Most consumers, however, feel they lack an alternative to throwing out garments in poor condition, because they feel uncomfortable donating these items to secondhand clothing charities. Consumers should know that they can, and should, include such items with their wearable clothing donations because most clothing charities work with a recycling partner that will responsibly dispose of worn-out garments.
Ultimately, to tackle the root of our problem of trashing clothing, we will have to address Americans’ rising consumption of clothing. Today we purchase 400% more clothing than we did just 20 years ago, largely due to the rise of “fast fashion” – the trendy, yet cheap clothing that has flooded retail stores, like H&M, Zara and the Gap, in recent years. Curbing clothing waste will only subside when we return to a more quality-over-quantity-based shopping ethic.
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Author Kaveri Marathe is the Founder and CEO of Texiles, a clothing recycling startup based in Washington, DC. She is originally from Florida but moved to DC in 2011 to pursue her Master's in International Relations at Georgetown University where she focused on energy and environmental policy. Following that, she spent 2 years in Oslo, Norway working as a sustainability consultant and returned to DC in 2016 to launch her own business. For more information, you can visit her website at www.texiles.com.