Can I Put Clothes In The Recycling Bin?

In this short report we will discuss the question “can I put clothes in the recycling bin?” by answering some of the important aspects of materials used for making clothes and how they can be reused or disposed of. 

What are clothes made of?

There are two categories from which clothes can be made. The natural fibers and synthetic fibers. The examples can be classified into these two groups.

Natural FibersSynthetic Fibers
CottonPolyester
SilkRayon
WoolSpandex
JuteAcrylic fibers
LinenMicrofibers
LeatherKevlar

The list for the synthetic fiber goes on as more research and studies are being done to include more robust and durable clothing materials. The beginning of the clothes making started from the raw material, cotton. This was one among the widely produced non food crops and its sole purpose was the production of clothes. 

Photo Courtesy: iStock. Cotton Plant

Now the trends have changed and people are not just looking to cover their body but also are more inclined towards the texture, quality, and durability of the clothes that they wear. The type of clothes depends on the climatic conditions of an area. Though people in summer prefer a more aerated type of clothing, people of the coldest countries rely mostly on wool or thick clothes that prevent the loss of heat from the body.

Since the introduction of man-made or synthetic materials, the use of naturally occurring raw renewable materials have declined. Now the textile industries are more inclined to customer satisfaction rather than an eco-friendly alternative. The synthetic fabric that uses our fossil reserves has replaced the most sustainable naturally occurring raw material cotton. 

As per the Global Synthetic Fibers Market data the use of synthetic fibers is predicted to grow in a few years with 62% of the population choosing synthetic fabrics. This is not surprising owing to the high strength, softness and low cost of the synthetic fibers. They are more famous and preferable than the naturally occurring fibers.

How to reuse worn out clothes?

Clothes that are in proper condition can be sold to keep your wardrobe clean and make room for more new ones. There are stores that sell used clothes at a very low price so that it can be helpful for low-income people. You can always donate your clothes to the needy so that it is not dumped in landfill wastes. 

Goodwill and salvation army are such organizations where they take used clothes, clean them with chemicals and put them for sale. This way the waste clothes are not piled in landfill and keep our earth safe. Torn clothes, even a small hole at the wrong place, can never be worn again until it’s repairable. 

But there are a lot of ways these clothes can be turned into a do it yourself craft or made into a new fashion. If you have kids, mens shirts can be made into beautiful dresses or frocks and kids love to show them off. Even torn genes can be re-fashioned to include splits and tares to give it a new look. 

Some of the clothes are used to make pillow covers, especially the plain ones where you can design and decorate your own way and make a fabulous pillow cover. By twisting and rolling the wasted clothes, these can be made into a bathroom mat. As the clothes are washable the reworked clothes can be used any number of times.

Another way is to turn your baggy saggy clothes to a fashionable dress by cutting, trimming, and stitching. T-shirts can be made into tank tops or classy bags and genes can be made into shorts. With many five minutes crafts videos showing different ways to reuse and repurpose the old clothes, the wastage of clothes has decreased to a great amount.

Photo Courtesy: iStock. Pile of clothes

Can I put clothes in the recycling bin?

Recycling is the best way to reduce any type of waste. The more types of pollution hitting the world, many are opting for a favorable recycling process. But can clothes go to the recycling bin is a question for many. 

Organizations such as Goodwill and Salvation Army will do the recycling for you, but you have to take your clothes to them. Dumping in your household or apartment recycling bin is not a good option as these are meant for recycling other things such as papers or plastics. If clothes accidentally end up in the curbside recycling then they will get clogged in the equipment creating a great trouble for the recycling center. 

However, there is always another option if you find specialized recycling centers that take clothes. Clothing materials are completely recyclable and these can be recycled to make new clothes or other products such as carpet padding, rubberized playgrounds etc. Clothes that are made of pure cotton can be reused for paper manufacturing, automotive and mining industries. 

This way not only are you preventing the clothes wastage problem but also saving numerous trees that end up in paper industries.

Is disposing clothes in landfill eco-friendly?

So far we learned the impactful ways to recycle clothes that not only save our environment but also serve as raw material for other processes. Lets know other more ways to handle the bulk wastage of clothes. Clothes are biodegradable, only if they are made of naturally available raw materials. 

With this we could deal with the 27% of the clothes that are made from plant and animal based materials. But what about the other 63% synthetic clothing materials that are non-biodegradable? These will end up in landfill if the recycling and reusing process is not efficient in your area. 

Same is the case with composting clothing materials. Only biodegradable plant or animal based fibers can be composted in our garden and not the synthetic one. 

Lets give you the statistics of the world wide production of clothes and how much of that ends up in landfill. China being the largest producer of clothes tosses 26 million tonnes of clothes every year. Europe approximately produced 5.8 million tonnes in the year 2019 and India, the third largest producer, had approximately 1.4 million tonnes production of fiber in the year 2019. 

Every year more than 80 billion garments are produced throughout the world from different fibers. It is shocking to know that more than 60% of these garments end up in landfill every year. In 2020 approximately 18.6 million tonnes of clothing was discarded in landfill. 

With this number, the predicted analysis is even more causing an alarming concern of the waste produced by the people of the world. Most of the synthetic fabrics take more than 200 years to decompose by the naturally occurring microbes and in landfill it will be even more owing to the anaerobic condition. 

The degradation of clothes in landfill causes an increase in greenhouse methane glas and leaches out toxic chemicals to the underground water thereby causing various types of pollutants. 

Conclusion

In this short report we have discussed the topic “ can i put clothes in the recycling bin?”. We first discussed what are the materials used for making clothes and how each can be reused or disposed of. We have also highlighted different ways clothes can be reused to make different household items.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs): Can I put clothes in the recycling bin?

How do you dispose of old clothes?

Old clothes that are made from plant or animal based resources can be disposed of with the garbage as they are completely biodegradable. This can also be used for compositing for your garden. Synthetic fabrics, however, need to be recycled or reused as these are non biodegradable and if end in landfill cause various kinds of pollution.

Which bin can I put old clothes in?

Old or wasted clothes should never be placed in curbside recycling bins as these can create problems in the recycling equipment where paper or plastic bags are recycled. However, these can be placed in a plastic bag near the blue wheelie bin for recycling so that these can be collected by the garbage collector the next day for cloth recycling. 

What do you do with torn clothes?

There are many art works that you can create with your torn clothes. T-shirts can be made tank tops or jeans can be cut to make shorts. This way torn clothes can be reused for many years without having to dump in landfill. Many do it yourself crafts ideas are shown in youtube, where old and torn clothes can be converted to useful items.

Can I put clothes in black bin?

Black bin is called a garbage bin in which any garbage can go such as broken cups, candy wrappers or any non-recyclable rubbish. Since clothes cannot be recycled with the other materials it cannot be placed in a recycling bin, hence if you are dumping your old clothes then it should go in black bin. 

However, there are recycling centers that accept clothes but you have to give it to them directly instead of dumping it in any bin.

Is it wrong to throw old clothes in the garbage?

Old clothes that are discarded in garbage bags will be sent to landfill where the leachates and chemical gasses from the synthetic fiber cause environmental pollution. There are many options by which these can be recycled or reused to make bags or mats that can last longer.

Are the clothes compostable?

Clothes are biodegradable if they are made purely with plant or animal based raw materials.Clothes made from cotton, linen or silk are completely biodegradable by the naturally occurring microorganisms and hence can be used to make compost. However, synthetic fibers such as polyesters are not biodegradable and hence needs to be either recycled or reused.

References

https://www.masterclass.com/articles/natural-vs-synthetic-fibers#5-examples-of-synthetic-fibers
https://www.roadrunnerwm.com/blog/textile-waste-environmental-crisis

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