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The Green Life: Ask Mr. Green: Where Should Old Clothes Go?

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January 15, 2013

Ask Mr. Green: Where Should Old Clothes Go?

Mr. Green is Bob SchildgenHey Mr. Green,

I've read that the average American dumps about 70 pounds of textiles (clothing, old carpets, etc.) into landfills each year. How do I recycle the stained and hole-ridden jeans that thrift stores won't take?

--Jesse in California

Americans dispose of more than 12 million tons of textiles annually, less than 25 percent of which is recycled or reused, dooming most secondhand clothing and carpets to a soggy afterlife crammed deep in a landfill.

Donating items is indeed the best way to ensure reuse. If major thrift stores get clothing that's too ratty to resell, the cloth gets converted into things like industrial rags or sound-dampening material. When donating to a used-goods store, make sure it recycles unwanted materials. If your old duds get rejected, there's not much you can do except deploy them as household rags or support the arts by giving them to quilt makers or other rag-intensive craftspeople.

Recycling carpets is a serious pain because it's so difficult to separate their materials. Some 3 million tons of carpets are dumped each year, with only about 5 percent recycled or reused. Outfits like the Carpet Recyclers (thecarpetrecyclers.com) can extract and recycle carpet components. Go to carpetrecovery.org for more information.

Got a question? Ask Mr. Green!


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This post is from Mr. Green's archives. Illustration by Little Friends of Printmaking

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