According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only 16.2% of textiles in the waste stream are recycled nationally. This means that more than 80% of the textiles Americans use are unsustainably thrown away, landfilled, or incinerated. If you're a great recycler of plastic bottles and paper, reducing your textile waste is a great way to divert even more waste from the landfill.
In 2017, Milton residents donated more than 35 tons of recyclable textiles through our box donations at Milton Public Schools. We should be proud of that number, but we can be recycling even more textiles if residents know how.
In Milton, you can drop off usable or unwearable clothing or linens in Bay State Textile boxes around town. The boxes are located in the parking lots of each Milton Public School, and at two parking lots at Milton Academy. They accept everything from linens to stuffed animals and more. A full list of accepted items can be found on the Bay State Textiles website. You can also donate gently used clothing, shoes, and linens in the American Red Cross box at the town Recycling Center on the first Saturday of each month from 9 am to 12 pm.
When you recycle clothing and fabrics in the American Red Cross box, the items are sold through a vendor and a portion of the proceeds benefits the ARC's Disaster Relief Fund.
When you recycle in the Bay State Textile boxes in Milton:
- 50% of the donations are exported to developing countries, where they are graded, repaired, wholesaled, and retailed in these markets. This type of export helps supply the market for used clothing in the export countries and stimulates local economies by creating jobs.
- The other 50% of the textiles remain in the United States. They, too, are graded. Material that is suitable to be made into wiping cloths are sold to domestic industries that need wipers to keep equipment and facilities clean. Material of lower quality is shipped to fiber mills, ground down, and made into new materials such as carpet padding, insulation, and building materials.
- The money made by selling these materials is donated to Milton parent-teacher organizations.
Despite the idea that clothing or old fabrics may be "unusable", in fact, even clothing that you can't re-wear may be saleable on other textile markets, creating a way for organizations to generate monetary donations to charitable causes.
Here's what most boxes have in common: they take advantage of the textiles recycling market by selling textile goods that no longer suit their original purposes.
However, not all donation boxes are created equal. Some boxes only accept gently used clothing for the purpose of direct resale in thrift stores. Some boxes welcome textile materials of any kind. Some will take shoes and others will not. It's best to do some research on any company before just dropping a load of clothes into the bin.
The moral of the textiles story is that there's no need to throw away what could be recycled. We have an opportunity to reduce our waste with little additional effort, and we should take it.