As one might expect, the textile industry is one of the largest in the entire world, spanning clothing, personal accessories like hats and gloves, and table linens or bedding. This industry is worth over $2.5 trillion dollars around the world and employs many people, and the United States alone is the world’s single largest buyer and producer of such clothing. As of 2016, for a recent example, the American apparel market was worth close to $315 billion, and may reach $385 billion by 2025 or so. Americans are buying more clothes than ever before, about twice as many as just 20 years ago, meaning that some Americans or their households have large wardrobes. Many of these old clothes are not even being worn anymore, and Americans are urged to donate to military charities or drop off clothes at used clothing pick up sites to give away their old garments for helping families in need. Veterans clothing donations are also welcomed at used clothing pick up sites, and many of these used clothing pick up sites are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. How often are clothes donated like this every year, and how might someone decide which clothes to give away at used clothing pick up sites?
Modern Clothing Recycling and Waste
Textiles is one of several modern industries that makes use of recyclable materials, along with wood, plastic, steel, and glass, among others. The bad news is that textiles ranks poorly among these industries, and Americans today are encouraged to reduce rates of clothing waste and instead donate more clothing to charitable causes. In the 2010s, textiles had a reclamation rate close to 15%, meaning that around 85% of all used clothes end up being discarded and sent to landfills, where they aren’t doing any good for anyone. This contributes a lot to landfill growth, and the average American discard around 70 pounds of textile waste, including clothes, bed and table linens, every single year. This adds up fast; millions of tons of old textiles are discarded like this every single year. While some old clothes are recycled and shredded to make industrial rags or furniture stuffing, some would argue that it is better to donate these old clothes to charitable causes.
The good news is that a majority of Americans indeed have a charitable spirit, and many millions of old garments are sent to used clothing pick up sites every single year. The winter holidays such as Christmas and Hanukkah are a particularly charitable time, and the United States even ships many of these old clothes overseas. Many impoverished and developing parts of the world receive countless textile donations for the people living there. If Americans already have a charitable spirit, then boosting rates of clothing donations simply means stoking this existing spirit to new heights. It may be convenient for many potential donors that used clothing pick up sites are always open, and their addresses may be easily found online. How can a typical household contribute to this effort?
How to Make the Donation
Most American households probably have more clothes than the people living there intend to wear, but these old clothes don’t have to languish in a closet or end up in a landfill. Instead, a simple and practical method may be used to assign some clothes for donations, no matter how vast a household’s wardrobe may be. To begin, everyone in the household may gather all clothing and personal accessories from across the house and gather them into a single, large pile on the floor. Wardrobes may get spread out over time and become difficult to track, but with this single large inventory, it becomes much easier to gauge how much clothing is owned.
Now, everyone may sort through this pile and choose what they really want to keep, and what they can afford to donate instead. Clothes to be donated may be worn out, the wrong size, or redundant with better items. These clothes may then be packed into boxes or bags, which may be sealed for convenient transport. The donor may then find the address of a nearby used clothing pick up site and drive all of the clothes there, then hand them over to the volunteers.