Great Britain alone has seen a 60-percent increase in textile purchases over the last decade. Experts estimate that British consumers throw out more than a million tonnes (1.1 million U.S. tons) of textiles in the form of clothes and other products every year. A European Union environmental report calls fabric Britain's fastest growing waste stream.
Americans discard an estimated 68 pounds of clothing a year, while buying 10 pounds of recycled clothes. In 2006, 2.5 billion pounds of fabric were kept from the landfills by used-clothing purchases. Yet about 99 percent of what is thrown away can be recycled. The Bureau of International Recycling, an industry advocacy group, claims that a single kilogram of collected used clothing can help reduce up to 3.6 kilograms, or almost 8 pounds, of CO2 emissions.
Where these figures are not specific to Ireland they do reflect a worldwide issue of increased waste through clothes production which is also evident in Ireland.
The term 'textiles' includes not only clean rags and usable clothing, curtains, blankets, towels and household linen, but also footwear, belts, hats, handbags and shoes.
The production of cotton destroys farmland and pollutes waterways. In fact, 22.5% of all agricultural insecticides and 10% of all pesticides used each year go into cotton farming. It may be hard to believe, but the production of just one cotton t-shirt requires one-third of a pound of pesticides. What's more, pesticides enter our ground water and streams affecting birds, bees, animals, the farm workers who have to work with them and eventually all of us. The dyes that are used to colour clothing, most of which contain heavy metals, synthetic polyesters and nylon are made from petrochemicals, a byproduct of oil refining which increases our need and reliance on oil and increases harmful pollution which affects us all.
You can make a difference when you recycle; you conserve raw materials and natural resources. That means less has to be extracted, refined, transported and processed which lightens the load on Mother Earth. You also conserve the energy that's needed in the manufacturing process. Less energy used means less energy that needs to be generated, resulting in smaller carbon footprints and less greenhouse gases and emissions.
There's another side to clothing recycling that's equally as important. And that's helping to provide the millions of poor in third world countries with usable clothing they may not otherwise be able to afford. Members of our industry can deliver a clean pair of damage-free pants to an underprivileged person in Africa for as little as .34 cents a pair. A warm sweater can find its way to someone who's cold in Pakistan for about .12 cents. And that includes the transportation costs of getting it there. (Source: Council for Textile Recycling).
When you recycle your old clothing that you might have otherwise thrown away it can be used by someone else who desperately needs it. This benefits both you and the environment.