A New Perspective on Textile Recycling

A New Perspective on an Ancient Industry

Ira Baseman Ira Baseman
is president of Community Recycling, a Pennsylvania based textile recycler

Often neglected and misunderstood in the world of traditional recycling, textile recycling is poised to become a more central component in our retail buying and social experience. The signs of change abound and the opportunity for personal engagement in textile recycling is clear.

Historically, the act of textile recycling was driven by a donation model that was supported by large non-profit organisations that acquired used clothing and related materials to fuel their charitable programs. This model has been in place for decades and has been widely expanded to keep many thousands of tonnes of textiles from landfill.

While largely a successful model to a specific and limited end, the act of recycling was subordinated to a cause and there was little if any engagement with the recycler about the use or destiny of their clothing. In the recent years, we have witnessed a shift in recycling activity generally, an expansion of social and environmental engagement, and the continued reinforcement of social networking.

Social awareness has been heightened, as witnessed by our strong interest in understanding the impact we are having on the environment. We see these changes everywhere, from the local farm to table food movement, to legislation covering extended producer responsibility for large manufacturers of electronic and a range of other consumer goods. The landscape has shifted and we now understand that recycling is a positive step for its own right.

Nowhere else is this more palpable than in textile recycling. We now can engage people to recycle for reuse and to tell the complete story of where this clothing is destined and why. The pyramid has been inverted and reuse is the best outcome for all parties involved, from the retailer to the consumer and finally to the recipient somewhere else in the world.

Recycling textiles connects people across the globe in a positive and enriching way. With the advent of technology, social networking and modern transportation, we can make the world a smaller, friendlier and greener place.