After being donated, what happens to the recycled clothing and shoes? Where do they go? How do they get there?
Since 1991, Ecosmith Recyclers in New Hampshire have kept over 50 million pounds of shoes, clothing and household textiles out of landfills, and in circulation, while giving back over $1,000,000 to local non-profit groups.
It happens fairly often that we receive questions about recycled clothing and shoes and what happens once items are donated. It is a very simple process, but it is one that requires labor, time, and coordination.
The process begins when a person decides that the time has come to donate out of season, out of style, or no longer needed items. Those items are ideally placed into bags and then tied for easier handling throughout the collection process. Bags of recycled clothing and shoes are then placed into Ecosmith bins.
On predetermined routes each day, our team members drive around to each bin and collect the recycled clothing and shoes. After collection, the items are brought back to our shop where they are sorted into various categories. Shoes, toys, books, and household items are placed into boxes. Clothing and various textiles are compressed into 1000 lb bales.
We work with various groups to coordinate the sale and transport of recycled clothing and shoes. At scheduled times, trucking companies pick up shipping containers from a port and bring them to our shop. We then load the bales into the container, after which it is returned to port. From there, it is loaded onto a cargo ship and taken to developing nations worldwide.
Once these materials have met their destination overseas, they are sold in open markets or bazaars. The best possible use for your unwanted clothing or shoes is re-use. Lots of energy and resources are needed in manufacturing clothing. In fact the Natural Resource Defense Council states that:
“The choice of fabric at the design table strongly influences the environmental impacts of a garment over its lifetime. Fibers made from plants, such as cotton and bamboo, can require huge quantities of water and pesticides to produce, while animal-based fibers such as cashmere can have severe impacts on the environment where the animals are raised. Synthetic fibers are often made from petro-chemicals that require a lot of energy to produce, but sometimes can be recycled. Fabric choice also drives consumer care requirements, which themselves have large water, energy, and toxic chemical impacts.”
Recycled clothing and shoes that are no longer suitable for re-use are repaired. If those items are no longer repairable, they are recycled into wiping cloths and insulation. Items such as shoes can be ground up into a material used to create athletic and playground surfaces and more.