Textile donations: So much more than clothes

After Monday's GreenSpace column about donating clothes to charities, I got an email from a local dealer of rags and wipes who felt I didn't go far enough and say enough.

One thing to emphasize: the clothes in question don't have to be wearable.


I invited him to submit a guest post, but he declined, directing me instead to his website: www.ypers.com 

Anyway.....yes... clothing does NOT have to be wearable to be of use. So as for your stained beyond salvation shirts, your torn beyond recognition jeans, donate them, too.

There's tons of good information at the website of SMART, the Association of Wiping Materials, Used Clothing and Fiber Industries.

The association's former president, Larry Groipen, described in a Boston Globe article the various ways donated fabrics get used:

Roughly 95 percent of used textiles can be reused or repurposed.

The material in the best condition — about 45 percent of the total — is used as apparel either in this country or abroad, he said. Developing countries have thriving second-hand clothing markets with thousands of people employed in cottage industries such as cutting down clothes for smaller sizes, or redesigning them to meet local tastes, he said.

The less pristine material — about 30 percent of recovered textiles — is cut into wiping and polishing cloths such as those produced by Groipen’s company, ERC Wiping Products in Lynn, Mass. The cloths are sold to factories, contractors, power plants, schools, repair businesses, or “everybody who doesn’t have a closet and makes a mess,” he said.

The even less appealing material, about 20 percent of the total, is shredded into fibers and used to make such things as insulation, sound proofing, carpet padding, and furniture stuffing, Groipen said. He said even zippers and buttons are reused, sometimes ground up for roofing material. And a company in Arizona specializes in grinding up blue jeans for insulation, he said.

“An average car contains about 50 pounds of recycled textiles. It’s in the door panels, the carpet linings, hood linings, all over the place,” he said.

Only about five percent of textiles wind up in the trash, he said.