The Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART) has recognized the recent announcement by the fashion company H&M that it will begin accepting clothing for its global recycling program. Beginning in February 2013, the program will operate in select stores in the retailer’s 48 worldwide markets.
“We’re reaching a ‘critical mass’ of clothing retailers who are implementing clothing recycling programs,” says Lou Buty, president of SMART. “As the association of clothing and textile recyclers, we are the engine that drives the economics of the clothing and textile recycling industry. We encourage everyone to ‘Donate, Recycle, Don’t Throw Away.’ Our goal is to keep as much clothing and textiles as possible out of our landfills so we can reduce the world’s carbon footprint.”
Other clothing recycling programs within the retail fashion industry include Levi’s partnership with Goodwill’s “Donate Movement,” the GAP’s “Recycle Your Blues” program to recycle unwanted denim products, Nike’s “Reuse Your Shoes” and Patagonia’s “Common Thread,” among others.
“Whether clothing and textiles are recycled in the programs operated by the fashion retailers, are donated to local charities, or are recycled in a municipal program, ultimately they are processed by our member companies to be re-used, recycled as wiping cloths, or remanufactured into their basic fiber components,” says Jackie King, executive director of SMART. “Recycled clothing is an important industry; our member companies work in conjunction with charities and municipalities to process billions of pounds of materials annually. Even then, billions more pounds of clothing are being thrown away when they could have been reused or recycled.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 21 billion pounds of clothing and textiles are discarded annually in the United States alone.* In its 2012 annual report, the Waste and Resources Action Program (‘WRAP’–United Kingdom) found that 75 percent of the people surveyed discarded clothing items because they did not know the item could be used for another purpose. (*Source: EPA Municipal Waste Study 2010.)
“Ninety-five percent of clothing and household textiles can be recycled. Even items that are ripped or torn, are stained, or are considered otherwise unwearable can be recycled, as long as the items have been laundered and are dry. The material can be recycled by a SMART member; for example, the denim collected in the GAP’s “Recycle Your Blues” program is remanufactured into household insulation by a SMART member company,” says Buty.
The “Wear It? Recycle It!” lesson plans developed by SMART are also proving to be a hit in classrooms across the country. To date, 177,400 students and nearly 7,000 teachers have used the lesson plans and materials since they were introduced earlier this year. The grade-appropriate educational materials show students that clothing and other textiles can be recycled just like items in their homes such as paper, plastic, glass and aluminum.
For more information about the clothing and textile recycling industry, visit the SMART website. The website includes a tool that can be used by the public to find the nearest clothing and textile recycling location.