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The Monster in Our Closet—Why It’s Time We Take Textile Waste Seriously


Did you know that nearly 95 percent of all textile products can be recycled or reused? However, barely 15 percent actually do.


Why aren’t we recycling and reusing our secondhand clothing? One explanation is that many of us aren’t aware of what can and can’t be reused. This is evident in the fact that when an old t-shirt rips, most people think it’s meant to go to a landfill.


Another reason is the advent of fast fashion and how it’s warped textile consumption patterns. Here’s an overview of the causes of the waste problem and what can be done about it.


What is Fast Fashion?

Fast fashion is a popular business model that retail stores across the world have taken up. The idea is to deliver the latest styles and trends to consumers on an urgent basis. Take for example the soaring popularity of prêt fashion. This is where clothes are produced in their finished, final form and in standardized sizes so they’re ready to wear the minute you take them off the hanger.


Prêt fashion has compelled retailers to introduce more fashion seasons than the standard four. Every alternate month, there’s a sale or a new must-have item that’s in limited stock.


The mass production of clothes under fast fashion means that they’re a lot cheaper than bespoke or unstitched pieces; but this increases our consumption of clothes that are “in trend” and is likewise speeding up the rate at which they end up in landfills when “season’s over.”




Why Does Textile Waste Matter?

Textile waste makes up nearly 10 percent all solid waste that’s produced in the country each year. This means that our clothes and rags make up a significant portion of our landfills.


Depending on what state you’re from, municipal landfills will fill up disproportionately. This means that some states will want to ship their trash to cities and regions where there’s more landfill space. The transportation of waste itself produces more greenhouse gases, further exacerbating the problem.


The textile industry is a major polluter of our water sources and consumes large amounts of energy during the production process. Items like cotton release harmful chemicals and pesticides into our water and soil during the manufacturing process.


One cotton shirt uses nearly 60 percent of a pound of pesticides. Not to mention that the production of such clothes releases nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that three hundred times more potent than carbon dioxide.


What Can We Do About Textile Waste?

Uncontrolled waste generation is a major cause of environmental degradation. If you want to prevent textile waste from ending up in landfill sites, here are three things you can do:


  1. Reduce your consumption
  2. Reuse your old clothes
  3. Recycle secondhand clothing

Get in touch with our team and donate your used clothes to Whitehouse & Schapiro today! From recycling secondhand clothes to exporting textile products to countries that need it most, we prevent over 12.5 million tons of textile waste from ending up in landfills each year.

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