Textile Recycling

Dear Sustainability Sam,

I am doing some updates in my home and would like to recycle the old curtains.  Is Tangletown planning another textile recycling event? If not, can you recommend somewhere to take them?

Thanks!

Joy

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Dear Joy,

Thank you for being mindful of the disposal of your curtains! First, if your curtains are in usable condition, I recommend donating them or posting for free locally in an online marketplace. Hennepin County is no longer accepting textile recycling, so if you don’t think your curtains are usable as-is, consider checking out Tangletown’s Textile Reduce & Reuse event on March 21 from Noon-3:00 at Fuller Recreation Center. Although we won’t be accepting textiles for recycling, we will be collecting a limited selection of textiles for upcycling (listed on our event page). The event will also feature many great ways to reduce textile waste through reusing, repairing, and upcycling. Perhaps you can connect with one of the organizations tabling for ideas on how to reuse or upcycle those curtains you no longer need! 

This is a timely topic, as the City and Hennepin County have stopped collecting textiles for recycling due to market uncertainty. With the rise of fast, cheap fashion and home textiles, demand for lower quality used textiles has dropped, especially if torn or soiled. The company Hennepin County was contracting with for textile recycling could not guarantee that textiles were actually being recycled, and not just landfilled or burned, once they landed overseas. I recommend reading this MinnPost article from December 2019 to learn more.

There are several reasons why it is hard to find options for textile recycling. I mentioned earlier that lower quality textiles—thinner, less durable fabrics, less natural fibers, more fabrics made up of mixed fibers—make recycling difficult. In addition, the sheer quantity of textile waste being generated in the U.S. is an issue. Below is a summary table of textile waste generation from 1960-2017 from the EPA’s facts and figures on textiles in municipal solid waste (MSW) webpage. You can see that in 2017, textile waste generated in the U.S. had grown 860% since 1960, most of which was landfilled, whereas the U.S. population only grew 80% during this same time (Source: U.S. Census Bureau). 

Textile recycling is important, but current availability cannot keep up with current demand and consumption rates in the U.S. Reducing the amount of clothing and textiles we dispose of in the first place—buying less, buying quality items that can be repaired, renting for special occasions, buying secondhand—will help reduce our growing textile waste problem along with its carbon footprint and impact on climate change. 

Thank you for being thoughtful about the curtains you no longer need and for looking for an option other than just throwing them away. I hope you will check out the Tangletown Textile Reduce & Reuse Event on March 21 for great reuse, repair, donation, and upcycling resources!

Sustainably,

Sam

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