Every year, Americans become increasingly aware of the issues related to waste generation, but despite that, we are still contributing to the waste stream at a record pace. On average, every person in the U.S. creates 4.5 pounds of waste every single day.¹ Not only are those numbers unsustainable due to the fact that land is a limited resource, but it costs taxpayers billions of dollars annually in transfer station fees.²
The time to make a difference is now, so join us in our efforts to keep New England green.
Textile Recycling Facts
- Approximately 95% of textile products and shoes are recyclable
- According to the most recent EPA waste generation and recovery data, it is estimated that the U.S. generates 16.89 million tons (33.78 billion pounds) of clothing and textile waste per year, with only 2.57 million tons (5.14 billion pounds) of that volume being recycled, or about 15%. ¹
- Despite only recycling 15% of textiles and shoes, that volume of material has the environmental impact equivalent to removing 590,000 cars from the road every year. ¹
- If we were to keep in circulation all recyclable textiles and shoes, it would have the environmental impact equivalent to removing 3,877,470 cars from the road each year.
- Current EPA estimates have clothing and textiles accounting for nearly 8.25% (roughly 28.64 billion pounds) of our yearly waste stream, despite the product itself being almost entirely recyclable. ¹
- Based upon EPA estimates of current recycling rates, recycled clothing reduces greenhouse gas emissions by triple that of recycled glass. ¹
- On average, the EPA estimates that each individual in the U.S. contributes 87.5 pounds of textile waste to the waste stream every year. ¹
- The U.S. national average cost to dispose of 1 ton of solid waste in 2019 was $55.36. ²
- Due to the fact that 15% of textiles and shoes are currently being removed from the waste stream annually through recycling programs, U.S. taxpayers save an average of $142,275,200 every year.
- Accounting for landfill tipping fees, the 85% of textiles and shoes that are currently being added to the waste stream costs U.S. taxpayers an average of $794,775,840 per year.
- With the cost to dispose of waste in the northeast being among the highest in the country at more than $75 per ton, it is imperative that we all start working now to minimize the volume of material that we add to the waste stream. ⁵
Textile Manufacturing Facts
- Growing enough cotton to produce a single t-shirt requires 2,700 liters of water. ³
- The polyester production industry releases 1.5 trillion pounds of greenhouse gasses every year, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of 185 coal-fired power plants. ³
- The textile manufacturing industry produces 20% of global waste water and accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions, which is more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. ⁴
- As a crop, cotton takes up 3% of arable land, yet it accounts for 24% of total insecticide use and 11% of total pesticide use. ⁶
- Approximately 15% of fabric intended for the manufacture of clothing ends up as waste on the cutting room floor. ⁶
- According to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture data, the U.S. imports 19.7 billion pounds of textiles and apparel every year, while exporting only 3.5 billion pounds. ⁷
- Based on those numbers, the U.S. amasses 16.2 billion additional pounds of textiles and apparel every year by way of imports, or 49.5 pounds for every single person in the country.
Ecosmith Recyclers' Contribution
- Since 1991, Ecosmith Recyclers has kept over 50 million pounds of shoes, clothing and household textiles out of landfills and in circulation.
- At the same time, we've given back over $1,000,000 to local non-profit groups.
- In 2014, Ecosmith partnered with Live Bee, or Die Farms and Apiary, which is a local farm that raises pesticide free flowers and produce as a means for supporting local pollinator populations, including their own bee hives.
- Ecosmith partners with more than 100 different non-profit groups, schools, towns, churches, and small businesses to provide textile and shoe recycling services to the public while returning a percentage of profits to each of those groups.
- Every year, the EPA posts materials, waste, and recycling fact sheets. If you have ever wondered what we produce in terms of waste and the ways in which it is processed, their website is an excellent resource: https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling
- To see the most recent EPA Materials Management Fact Sheet and its extensive data sets, follow this link: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2019-11/documents/2017_facts_and_figures_fact_sheet_final.pdf
- If you prefer a simplified national overview of landfill, incineration, and recycling trends along with the benefits of recycling, this site can provide wonderful insight: https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/national-overview-facts-and-figures-materials
- The EPA's archives also have lots of articles on municipal solid waste with summaries and links to further reading: https://archive.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/web/html/
- This is an excellent article on the impact of the textile manufacturing and recycling industries, with suggestions for what can be done going forward to resolve some of the problems that come along with new-item manufacturing: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1964887/
- For a detailed look at the textile recycling industry and the difference that we all can make, this article is a worthwhile read: http://worldwearproject.com/about-us/global-responsibility
- It can come as a big surprise just how much it can cost to dispose of solid waste, so if you've never considered the financial impact of placing a bag into a trash can, this article lays out national numbers and averages and explains the likelihood that the cost will continue to rise: https://www.wasteinfo.com/news/wbj20170711A.htm
- The vast majority of textile and shoe manufacturing occurs outside of the United States where there are less strict policies and regulations in place, so groups like the World Bank have set up programs to subsidize and support sustainable manufacturing practices: https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/urbandevelopment/brief/solid-waste-management
- The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services conducted an in-depth analysis of the state's waste generation, landfill, incinerator, and recycling figures, and while being a longer read, it is a fantastic resource if you are interested in local facts and trends: https://www.des.nh.gov/organization/commissioner/pip/publications/wmd/documents/r-wmd-08-3.pdf
- If you are interested in the hard facts of U.S. textile and apparel imports and exports, there is a bounty of information available on the Department of Commerce's Office of Textiles and Apparel: https://otexa.trade.gov