Clothing Retailer Highlights Importance of Clothing Recycling Programs

H&M will begin accepting clothing for its global recycling program beginning February 2013 at select stores in the retailer's 48 worldwide markets.

The Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART), whose goal is to keep as much clothing and textile out of landfills as possible, applauds the recent announcement.

"We're reaching a ‘critical mass' of clothing retailers who are implementing clothing recycling programs," says Lou Buty, president of SMART. "As the Association of clothing and textile recyclers, we are the engine that drives the economics of the clothing and textile recycling industry. We encourage everyone to ‘Donate, Recycle, Don't Throw Away.'"

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 21 billion pounds of clothing and textiles are discarded annually in the United States alone. In its 2012 annual report, the Waste and Resources Action Program (‘WRAP'- United Kingdom) found that 75% of the people surveyed discarded clothing items because they did not know the item could be used for another purpose.

"Recycled clothing is an important industry," said Jackie King, executive director of SMART. "Whether clothing and textiles are recycled in the programs operated by the fashion retailers, are donated to local charities, or are recycled in a municipal program, ultimately they are processed by our member companies to be re-used, recycled as wiping cloths, or re-manufactured into their basic fiber components."

SMART member companies work with charities and municipalities to process billions of pounds of materials annually, but billions more pounds of otherwise reusable clothing are thrown away.

Other clothing recycling programs within the retail fashion industry include Levi's partnership with Goodwill's "Donate Movement," the GAP's "Recycle Your Blues" program to recycle unwanted denim products, Nike's "Reuse Your Shoes" and Patagonia's "Common Thread," among others.

Denim collected in the GAP's "Recycle Your Blues" program is re-manufactured into household insulation by a SMART member company.

"Ninety-five percent of clothing and household textiles can be recycled," Buty said. "Even items that are ripped or torn, are stained, or are considered otherwise unwearable can be recycled, as long as the items have been laundered and are dry."