Reducing textile waste a priority

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated textile production in 2018 to be 17 million tonnes. (Courtesy photo)

HAMMONTON — The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated textile production in 2018 to be 17 million tonnes.

“There is a lot that we can recycle or just keep out of the landfill, and I think textiles are one of those things people should be thinking about because there are better alternatives than just throwing things away.” Hammonton Green Committee said President Amy Menzel.

Along with clothes, towels and blankets also contribute to textile waste.

“Some animal shelters take things like towels and old blankets, so there are a number of opportunities for people. [to reduce textile waste] and a lot of them are really easy. There are drop boxes that you see in parking lots for different organizations, ”Menzel said.

Some ways to reduce textile waste include donating items and shopping at consignment stores or Good will.

“I like goodwill. I call it ‘Greatwill’ because it’s so good! There are so many different things there and not just clothes. You can find housewares and items for your home, and they also have a recycling program for electronics, ”Menzel said.

About 70 percent of Menzel’s wardrobe comes from the thrift store.

“I always liked giving myself clothes even as a kid, so I love that someone else wore those clothes before me,” Menzel said.

Kristi Schleyer has said that she has been saving since she was a child.

“My mother was a teenage mother and I grew up in a house with my aunts and uncles. My mom was one of six, so there were a lot of people in the house and not a lot of money for everyone. So basically the idea of ​​the workforce was there, ”Schleyer said.

Now that she’s a full-time working mom with three kids, an 11-year-old daughter and 9-year-old twins, it can be hard to find time to save, but she loves it.

“I actually try to teach my kids the same sort of thing, even giving stuff to places and helping out like we just put on all our winter coats and there’s a fundraiser. of coats in Hammonton, ”said Schleyer.

Like Menzel, Schleyer also does his shopping at Goodwill.

“Sometimes when the kids have to dress for things, I go to a consignment store or Goodwill like they have Jersey Day or something. It is so much cheaper. Kids grow up quickly, so it’s a lot cheaper to find something there, ”Schleyer said.

In addition to shopping, Schleyer also donates clothes or gives them to friends in his Mom Circle.

“My kids’ stuff, I have NorthFace coats, they only use these coats for a few months out of the year and maybe a year they don’t even fit in, so there is still a lot of life in those coats. kind of stuff, ”Schleyer said.

Mark Boyd, CEO of Goodwill Industries of South Jersey and Philadelphia, said that “reduce, reuse, recycle” has been one of Goodwill’s slogans since its inception in 1902.

“I would say we’re probably one of the early recyclers and we’ve been doing it for a long time,” Boyd said.

When people donate clothes to Goodwill, workers examine the items and determine if an item is good enough for the store.

“If they decide it’s not good enough, it goes to our rescue. There, we sell clothes overseas, but we also sell to recyclers who use the fibers from those textiles for a variety of uses, from making blankets to making insulation. Almost 100 percent of all textiles that arrive at Goodwill end up being reused in one way or another, ”Boyd said.

By collecting the clothes, it keeps the textiles “out of the waste stream”.

Goodwill also has a big sale every Sunday where items that have been on sale for about four weeks are on sale for $ 1.

“[November 7], I believe we sold about 95,000 units that day. Mostly clothes, probably 60 percent of them were clothes. It’s a great reuse success, ”Boyd said.

Normally, according to Boyd, Goodwill sells about 15,000 units of clothing per day and another 13,000 units of household items.

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Goodwill received record donations.

“The COVID year has been an unusual year for Goodwill. I appreciate that the governor of New Jersey and Pennsylvania allowed us to keep our doors open for donations, so we have amassed a huge amount of donations. About 650 donation trailer loads that we acquired during those three months we were closed. Nothing has ever matched this intensity and volume, but I would say we do really strong in giving. I always need more, but I don’t know if we’ll ever match what we’ve been doing during the COVID year, ”Boyd said.

Another way to reduce textile waste is to buy used clothing on apps like Poshmark.

Debra Shain said she uses Poshmark about once a month.

“I really like Poshmark because a lot of the stuff I buy there is within a year of when it came out in the actual store. The prices are so good and sometimes it’s like a quarter of what you would pay retail, ”Shain said.

At first Shain was reluctant to use apps, but now she’s enjoying it.

“I didn’t like using any of these apps until two years ago. Someone told me about it, and I was like, ‘Oh, let me check it out,’ ”Shain said.

Before using apps, Shain shopped in physical stores.

“I looked and I was like, ‘Wow, these are the same things I just saw in the high end store months ago,’” Shain said.

According to The Woolly Green site, “The average American consumer buys a new garment every 5.5 days. That’s 5.5 items of clothing per month, or 66 items per year.

“We are fair as a culture, we are very wasteful. There are a lot of things that we just use a few times and throw away without really thinking about what goes into making them and how our purchases affect other people, whether it’s the people who make them or the end of the day. Disposal, What Happens To Our Waste After We Throw It Out? Menzel said.

Fast fashion, inexpensive mass-produced clothing at low cost, contributes to the large amount of textile waste.

“A lot of times people are happy to see something that is really cheap, but I think we have to stop and think about how that is possible,” Menzel said.

Fast fashion produced overseas “may not have the same work practices and precautions to keep workers safe,” Menzel said.

“A lot of times people work for very low wages and conditions that can be dangerous, and that’s why these clothes are so cheap,” Menzel said.

Menzel suggested buying items labeled “Made in America” ​​and shopping at local businesses.

“We have all kinds of great local businesses and supporting them is supporting the people in our community, but there are also all these great thrift stores and it’s great fun going there looking for treasures. You can find good things, and we have places in Hammonton where you can do that, ”Menzel said.

This story was produced in collaboration with and the NJ Sustainability Reporting

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