Millennials prefer to recycle old clothes

Younger adults from ages 18-34 are far less likely to throw old clothes into the rubbish bin than older adults, finds a University of Missouri study. But with more than 14 million tonnes of textile waste trashed in the US in 2012, more efforts still need to be made to educate people about textile recycling.

Textile waste can be recycled in a variety of ways, including donating old clothes to charities and second-hand stores and recycling the materials to be remade into other products.

And as Pamela Norum, a professor at the University of Missouri, found millennials are far more likely to embrace the sharing economy when it comes to old textiles than older adults.

In her study examining US consumer habits in 2012, she found that younger adults from the ages of 18-34 were much less likely to throw old clothes and other textile waste into the garbage than older adults. They are also more likely to donate clothing to second-hand stores such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army.

Norum was surprised that older adults were more likely to throw old clothes into the rubbish bin than younger adults.

“Baby Boomers grew up when the recycling culture was coming of age, so we thought they would be more willing to recycle their used clothes rather than throwing them in the trash,” said Norum.

She also found that people disposed of old clothes for a variety of reasons, including clothing that was the wrong size, old or damaged or running out of storage space.

Her findings highlight the importance of educating consumers about the easy and free options for recycling or re-using old clothes to reduce waste and prevent unnecessary manufacturing of new textiles to replace discarded materials.

“Nearly all textiles can be recycled or re-used in some way, even underwear,” said Norum. “Lightly worn clothing can always be donated to charities and second-hand stores; more degraded fabrics can be cut up and made into rags or given to textile recyclers who can break down the materials and use them to manufacture new fabrics or other textile products.


Image credit: Christian Guthier, flickr/Creative Commons

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