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  • Susan Russell

Rags to Riches



The next time you’re cleaning out your closets there are good reasons to choose the charity bin instead of the trash bin. Donating used clothing isn’t just a nice thing to do for others- it also creates jobs and helps save the planet. If every one of us donated just one 22 pound bag, that would keep 55 million pounds out of our landfills!

According to the EPA, 85% of clothing in the USA is thrown in the garbage each year. That’s 34.5 billion pounds sent to landfills and 245 million pounds in Western New York alone.


There are enormous economic benefits to textile recovery. According to studies completed by the EPA and the Council For Textile Recycling, the market value of discarded textiles exceeds $130 million. Over 1,000 jobs could be created in NYS if our used clothes were recovered for reuse and recycling.

The thrift industry alone employs nearly 100,000 workers in the USA with over $1 billion in wages. Private sector recyclers create an additional 15,000 to 20,000 jobs nationally. Primary & secondary recyclers account for annual gross sales in excess of $700 million.

Recycling textiles doesn’t just stop at clothes- many collectors will accept footwear, bedding, curtains, stuffed animals, and other items in addition to clothing- including rags and sewing scraps.

Did you ever wonder what happens to your donated clothing once you drop it off and drive away? The answer is better than you may think:

* 10-20% of your donation will end up at a thrift store such as Amvets, Goodwill or the Salvation Army. They earn revenue by selling your used goods.

* 80% is resold to recyclers. The income goes to the charities sponsoring the collection bins.

* Textile recyclers then sort & separate these materials into 3 types: 45% is exported as secondhand clothing; 30% is recycled and converted (e.g. reclaimed wiping rags are used as industrial and residential absorbents.) The remaining 20% is recycled into fiber. This post consumer fiber is used to make home insulation, carpet padding and raw material for the automotive industry.

* Your used clothing goes through this entire process in just 30-60 days and

only 5% of your donation ends up as waste!

Items can usually be donated in any condition as long as they are clean, dry, and odorless. Not all textile collectors and events will accept everything so always check with the collector first.

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