Textile Recovery: A New Challenge Unfolds

We love our clothes. But what happens when it’s time to let go? Textile recovery can sound daunting, but we promise it’s not! Read on for some fast facts about textiles in Massachusetts.
Animated gif of clothes falling on girl.
1Clothing and textile products amount to 6% of all material going into U.S. landfills and incinerators…that’s 230,000 tons annually in Massachusetts alone!

2Textile reuse and recycling has the second highest potential environmental impact on reducing greenhouse gases compared to other recyclables.

395% of all used clothing, footwear, and other textile products can be reused or recycled, yet only 15% of reusable textiles are recovered from the waste stream.

4Because we throw away so many valuable textiles in the trash, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has adopted a new rule to promote more repurposing and recovery. As of November 1, 2022, MA residents and businesses can no longer throw clothing and textiles in the trash. For more info google “MassDEP Textiles Waste Ban.” This means that residents will need to bag up their unwanted clothing, towels and sheets and bring them to a textile drop off site or have them collected curbside.

5Textiles are defined in the waste ban as “clothing, footwear, bedding, towels, curtains, fabric, and similar products, except for textiles contaminated with mold, bodily fluids, insects, oil, or hazardous substances.”

6To retain their value and avoid mildew contamination, all donations must be clean and dry. Even textiles that are worn, torn, and stained have value (really!).

7About 45% of donated textiles are reused and sold as secondhand apparel, either in the U.S. or abroad. Another 30% is converted into industrial wiping cloths, and 20% is remanufactured into products like carpet padding, insulation, or sound-proofing material. The final 5% is thrown away because it is wet/mildewed, or otherwise unsuitable for reuse.

8Many municipal transfer stations host textile drop boxes. If you need help finding a textile donation location, visit your municipality’s website or visit MassDEP’s Beyond the Bin directory. RecyclingWorksMA also offers a Find-a-Recycler tool to help Massachusetts businesses locate textile recyclers.

9The next time you are considering the purchase of a new item of clothing, consider visiting local or online secondhand clothing stores first!

Do this not that

Partner Spotlight: Keep Massachusetts Beautiful

People next to pile of bags

Making Massachusetts a greener place to live, work, and play is a group effort. That’s why Keep Massachusetts Beautiful (KMB) is leading the charge, organizing volunteers to keep our streets and green spaces clean. KMB, led by Founder and Director Neil Rhein, is a nonprofit focusing on litter prevention and cleanups, waste reduction and recycling, and most importantly, environmental education.

With 40 individual chapters (and dozens of other communities), KMB cleanups have been active this spring, bringing together thousands of volunteers to pick up trash throughout the state. “It really brings the community together in a spirit of cooperation,” says Neil, “and provides young people a great educational experience as well.” KMB boasts many programs, ranging from the MassDEP grant-funded Talking Trash & Recycling presentation (featuring RSMA!), to the relatively new Mass Litter Cleanup Crew program where anyone can adopt a street and pledge to keep it clean year-round, to the Great Massachusetts Cleanup, where volunteers can organize cleanups throughout the year and report results. We also love that KMB reposts our social posts and reuses our newsletter content in their outreach!

Interested in learning more? Follow KMB on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and sign up for their e-newsletter as well. KMB’s dedication to cleaning up our streets and educating the public makes us proud to call them a Partner. We’re excited to see what comes next – and to join in on future cleanups, too!

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Until next time,

The Recycle Smart Team at MassDEP