Upcycling & recycling

Give + Take owner Dora Copperthite shows off some of her recycled wares. (Barbara Davidson, Los Angeles Times / March 6, 2010)


  • Call it the Forever 21 effect, or fast fashion. Americans are buying, and discarding, clothes more quickly than ever. The average American throws 54 pounds of clothes and shoes into the trash each year. That adds up to about 9 million tons of wearables that are sent into the waste stream, according to the Environmental Protection Agency — a 27% increase in a mere eight years.

    Although resale shops are a good option for clothes that still have some fashion value, and charities will take items that are well past their prime, there are still an awful lot of ink-stained dress shirts and moth-eaten sweaters that find their way to the dump.

    What to do with that favorite old shirt you ruined by inadvertently spilling a glass of red wine down its front, or that well-worn pair of slacks that finally split at the seams, or that dress you loved last year but now wouldn't wear to save your life?

    There are a wide variety of options that are better than the trash bag, including charities (such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army), resale shops (Buffalo Exchange, Give + Take) and the retailers that first sold them to you.

    Goodwill and the Salvation Army will not sell defective clothes or shoes, but they do offload them to textile recyclers, who either ship them to Third World countries where they may have a chance of a second life, or sort and resell them to textile "de-manufacturers" who can turn them into materials that can be worked into new materials, whether it's cleaning rags, carpet padding or rubberized playgrounds.

    Forty-five percent of recycled clothes are sold to other countries, 30% are turned into cleaning rags and 25% are turned into fibers for stuffing or insulation, according to the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textile Assn.

    Recycling awareness among clothing manufacturers seems to be on the rise. Goodwill, which in Southern California alone sold 14.6 million pounds of textiles to recyclers last year, recently joined with San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co. to educate jeans owners in how to care for their pants so they stand a better chance of reuse through the charity. READ MORE; http://www.latimes.com/features/image/la-ig-clothesrecycling-20100321,0,2856090.story