Reusing and Recycling

Donating clothes to a charity or selling them to a consignment shop ensures that your materials are not unnecessarily wasted in a landfill. More and more manufacturers are turning to reusable or recycled materials for their clothing.

Second-Chance Clothes

There's no better to way to save resources than to buy clothes someone else isn't wearing anymore. It saves natural resources both in creating the material and processing it. The work has been done and the energy spent. Consignment shops all over the country sell gently used clothing and accessories and can come in particularly handy when you need an outfit for a particular occasion that you may only wear once or twice.

It goes both ways, too. When you cull old clothes from your closet, you can donate them to charity or give them away through a swap group like Freecycle. If you wear a difficult-to-find size that is either shorter or taller than average, your swapped clothes can go to someone else who may find it hard to shop. There are few things more exciting than receiving a bag of clothes that are just the right size. Giving those clothes away is pretty rewarding, too. Goodwill Industries and the Salvation Army accept clothing donations for either resale or to give to those in need. If you want to bring in some cold hard cash for your clothes, sell them to a consignment shop or through the newspaper. This works well for specific sizes or styles and expensive items like wedding dresses and formal gowns. Even Halloween costumes can make their way to another closet through classified ads.

Recycled Fabrics

Rather than recycling the whole garment, many items can be recycled for parts. An old pair of jeans can be sacrificed for parts to save another pair, a patch here, a pocket there. Denim and other fabrics can also be kept for other homemade projects like purses, pillows, and blankets. Old T-shirts from concerts or sport teams can be patched together to make a memorable quilt. Before tossing that shrunken T-shirt or those threadbare jeans, consider whether they could be reincarnated in a different form.

A number of designers are incorporating used clothing into their designs. Material is used as-is and isn't reprocessed. It may be cut and stitched and incorporated into a design with other recycled fabrics. This industry is still in its infancy, with limited retail lines.

Manufacturers are also incorporating recycling activities, using clothing that is no longer used, postconsumer waste, and material waste from processing, also known as postindustrial waste. Postconsumer waste is material that would more than likely end up in a landfill or at the incinerator. Removing it from the waste stream saves landfill space, air quality, and other degradation caused by common disposal practices. Recycling postindustrial waste is beneficial to the economy and the environment.

Using recycled material saves energy because incorporating recycled material into feedstock reduces the energy needed for manufacturing. The energy needed to obtain and transport raw materials is reduced as well. In addition, fewer natural resources are needed when recycled material is incorporated.

If you're looking to purchase recycled clothing, see what companies like Florida-based Clothes Made From Scrap, Inc. (www.clothesmadefromscrap.com) have to offer. The company uses recycled plastic bottles and 100 percent cotton to create a 50/50 cotton/poly blend. The fabric is used to make T-shirts, caps, and visors. Clothing and hats can be purchased plain or screened with predesigned eco-friendly messages.

Clothes brought into a mill for recycling are sorted into material types with different end uses. Pants and skirts can be shredded and used for fillers in car insulation and furniture padding. Wool clothing can be reclaimed to make yarn or fabric. Cotton and silk can be recycled to make cloth rags and even paper. Denim can be recycled into insulation for buildings to improve energy efficiency.

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