Minnesotans throw away nearly 12 grocery carts full of clothing and other textiles every minute. And a lot of that material can be repaired, reused, or recycled.
Of the more than 13 million tons of post-consumer textile waste (clothing and household textiles) tossed each year in the U.S., only 2 million tons, or 15%, is recycled. More than 11 million tons is sent to landfills, and that means a lot of valuable material is going to waste.
Why is this a big deal?
The U.S. EPA reports that the 2 million tons of textiles currently recycled each year is the equivalent to removing 1 million cars from America’s highways. How does this compare to other recycling?
- more than 5 times the impact of recycled yard trimmings (170,000 cars removed)
- more than 4 times the impact of glass recycling (210,000 cars removed)
- more than plastic recycling (640,000 cars removed)
- nearly equal to the impact of aluminum recycling (1.3 million cars removed)
These 8 bales of cotton jeans (50 jeans in each bale) represent just one week of donations at one Arc Value Village store in the Twin Cities. Cotton is the most pesticide intensive crop in the world. It is also responsible for 2.6% of global water use.
Read more about the economics of recycling textiles in this Star Tribune article A towering Paul Bunyan is dressed for success with duds from donated items.
What you can do
1. Think before you buy
Fashion is fleeting, but waste isn’t. Before you decide to buy a new outfit, think.
- Do I need it?
- Can I buy used instead of new?
- Is it made to last?
2. Mend it
Broken zipper? Loose button?
- Look for a Fixit clinic to learn how to repair or mend items.
- Check Pinterest for great sewing and repair how-tos.
Pants no longer fit? Never liked that shirt anyway?
- Donate gently used items.
- Make sure they are clean and dry.
4. Buy smart
- Buy high-quality, durable products rather than cheap, disposable items. You can save money in the long run.
- If it's cotton, choose organic cotton. It's better for ecosystems by 95%.
5. Care for your clothes
- Is it really dirty, or can you wear it again? Not all your clothes need to be washed every time they are worn.
- Wash in cold water.
- Consider line drying. Line drying reduces t-shirt drying energy by 70%.
- Use the recommended amount of detergent.
What it took to make Paul's clothes
To make Paul Bunyan’s clothes, it took:
- Pants: 43 pairs of jeans
- Shirt: 40 shirts, 9 PJ pants, 1 skirt, and one robe.
- Hat: 50 t-shirts
And partners, many of whom donated their time and skills:
- Scott Andre, Wayne Gjerde, and Jeanne Giernet constructed his body and head.
- Arc’s Value Village donated the clothing for his outfit.
- Alicia Wold cut and sewed his outfit.
- Theresa Gaffey knitted his hat from old t-shirts
- Michelle Ooley sewed his hands from old paint canvas.
- Paul Bigot, a wig technician from the Guthrie Theatre, fit his beard and hair.
- Dave Duffy made the ax.
Paul's shirt and pants will be cut down and combined to make quilts that will be donated to a shelter. The hat will be un-knit and woven into rag rugs. The small off cuts and remnant clothing will be recycled; the larger pieces will be upcycled.