Help keep One Green Planet free and independent! Together we can ensure our platform remains a hub for empowering ideas committed to fighting for a sustainable, healthy, and compassionate world. Please support us in keeping our mission strong.


Many of us might already be donating used clothes to centers like the Salvation Army and Goodwill, but it looks like a good portion of textiles are still ending up in landfills and becoming a key source of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA report, which is released every four years, looked at all municipal solid waste (MSW) (i.e. garbage) that ended up in our trash system in 2011. In total, we produced 250 million tons of trash in 2011 and recycled about 87 million tons, which equals to a 34.7 percent recycled rate and 4.40 pounds of trash per person per day.

Organic material, primarily food waste and paper goods, made up the bulk of our landfill at 42.5 percent collectively or 106.3 million tons (14.5 percent or 36.6 million ton for food waste and 28 percent or 70 million tons for paper goods).

While textiles are a smaller portion of our landfill waste at 5.2 percent or 13.1 million tons, most of this waste is not recovered for recycling like other MSW. It’s among the lowest on the recycling rung, right near food waste and wood.

Only about 2 million tons or 15.3 percent of clothes are recovered for recycling annually as opposed to 65.6 percent or 45.90 million tons of paper products, 19.4. million tons of yard trimmings, 3.17 million tons of glass and 2.65 million tons of plastics.

“When comparing the amount of materials recycled to the overall impact on the environment, it is clear clothing and textiles needs to become a top-of-mind recyclable just like aluminum, plastic, glass, and paper,” said Jackie King, executive director of Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (SMART) in a press release about the study.

It’s strange to think so many pounds of clothes are ending up in our landfills considering the plethora of recycling options for textile products from neighborhood donation/recycling centers to those steel donation bins at gas stations and parking lots.

The EPA states that clothing recycling today has an equivalent impact of removing one million cars from the nation’s roads, reports SMART.

If recycling textiles was more prevalent, we could effectively contribute to a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. So next time you look at that holey sock or old T-shirt, consider dropping it at a recycling center or bin instead of tossing it into the trash.

Find the closest recycling or donation center near you with this useful search tool from the Council for Textile Recycling. And if you’re interested in knowing what happens to secondhand clothing within the recycling system, check out this infographic.

Image source: Waste Biorefining Blog

Easy Ways to Help the Planet:

  • Eat Less Meat: Download Food Monster, the largest plant-based Recipe app on the App Store to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy. You can also buy a hard or soft copy of our favorite vegan cookbooks.
  • Reduce Your Fast Fashion Footprint: Take initiative by standing up against fast fashion Pollution and supporting sustainable and circular brands like Tiny Rescue that are raising awareness around important issues through recycled zero-waste clothing designed to be returned and remade over and over again.
  • Support Independent Media: Being publicly-funded gives us a greater chance to continue providing you with high-quality content. Please consider supporting us by donating!
  • Sign a Petition: Your voice matters! Help turn petitions into victories by signing the latest list of must-sign petitions to help people, animals, and the planet.
  • Stay Informed: Keep up with the latest news and important stories involving animals, the environment, sustainable living, food, health, and human interest topics by subscribing to our newsletter!
  • Do What You Can: Reduce waste, plant trees, eat local, travel responsibly, reuse stuff, say no to single-use plastics, recycle, vote smart, switch to cold water laundry, divest from fossil fuels, save water, shop wisely, Donate if you can, grow your own food, volunteer, conserve energy, compost, and don’t forget about the microplastics and microbeads lurking in common household and personal care products!