Module 3: Solutions to Textile Waste

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Learning Objectives:

#1

Identify ways that individual people can reduce their textile waste generation.

#3

Appreciate that political or structural solutions to textile waste are needed.

#2

Understand options for recycling used clothing more responsibly.

#4

Become aware of policy ideas to reduce textile waste that are gaining momentum.

Huge selection of different used clothes for men, women and children on the rack in a seco

How can individuals and countries in the Global North reduce their textile waste?

In the following 6-minute video, Matilda Lartey (an artisan and community activist in Ghana) and Stacey Johnson (a sustainability expert in the U.S.) discuss this question.

How can I reduce my textile pollution?

Describes ways to reduce textile waste, including thrifting, swapping, and upcycling clothes.

What should I do with my used clothing?

Step 1

Ask your friends, family, and community if anyone could use the clothing.

Step 2

List the clothing online on a site like eBay, Poshmark, or DePop. 

Step 3

If it doesn't sell, find a recycler who will downcycle the clothing.

What is downcycling?

Downcycling is the process of deconstructing clothing and turning it into another material that can be re-used. The most common examples of downcycling are shredding clothing to make cushion stuffing or insulation for your home. Downcycling has numerous benefits: (1) it prevents used clothing from being sent to the Global South and (2) it saves energy and material that would have otherwise been needed to make new insulation or stuffing.

Where can I find recyclers who downcycle?

The key is to research and ask recyclers what they do with the clothing you donate to them. Two national programs that allow you to ship clothing to them for downcycling are:

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(Free)

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($20 per large bag)

Stacked Rolls of Fabric

Learning Check

Are individual choices enough to stop textile waste?

Explains how textile waste is a structural issue.
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What policies could reduce textile waste?

Hover over the policy image and use the arrows to navigate. 

Proposed policy regarding bans on textile waste imports. List of countries that have attempt to ban textile waste imports from the US, but faced trade pressure.

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Proposed policy regarding creating tax incentives for recycling textiles.

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Proposed policy holding companies responsible for their production and its waste.

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Proposed policy regarding bans on textile waste imports. List of countries that have attempt to ban textile waste imports from the US, but faced trade pressure.

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Before making an action plan, let's pause to reflect: