Most people nowadays know how to navigate themselves to the correct recycling bin when finished with their beverage or snack from the vending machine. But what about when purchasing a tee shirt, socks or even flip flops, from such a machine, where are the apparel recycling bins in the line up?
The latest trend in fast fashion, a term coined because of the high volume of low prices clothing that comes in and out of store, in what seems like a blink of an eye, is the apparel vending machines. Who What Wear, highlights some of the pioneers of this new way of selling with companies such as Uniqlo and Havanans cashing in on this trend. Followed by the extra money pocketed by, “Cutting the middle man may be a savvy route to cost-cutting,” describes the Independent .
Hopefully the consumers are also recycling these items instead of contributing to the 81 pounds of clothing many people in the United States throw away ever year. There are recycling bins for every product you can pretty much think up, sometimes all lined up together like little soldiers. But there has yet to be an apparel one amongst the rest. Those bins are usually outside second hand stores and scattered around random street corners. Why are they left alone all by themselves instead of being among the gang of recycle bins for glass, paper, plastic?
With the weather changing soon, a small set of UMaine students were asked what they did with their unwanted clothing. Almost all said they donated them to one charity or another. During a Mitchell Lecture on sustainability, Dr. Dietz, a professor of Sociology and Environmental Science and Policy from Michigan State University said, “We are reluctant to discuss value difference.” The students surveyed, answered with what they thought the politically correct answer should be.
But upon more discussion on the issue, a few admitted they through away soiled or torn clothing. When asked why, they said because they were not good enough to donate, not knowing that they could recycle these textiles, much like plastic, paper and other materials.
As mentioned in “The waste of changing seasons,” blog post, one solution on the UMaine campus is the Black Bear Exchange where you can exchange your clothing for some new wares of pick up some needed food.
UMaine also has recycle bins around campus called zero-sort, unfortunately one of the only things not excepted are textiles. The Director of Sustainability at University of Maine, Dan Dixon said that, “The contractor [Casella] does not allow textiles,” but that he would be interested in looking into the process involved in recycling textiles.
Dixon went on to say, that Bangor and Orono used to have “Big Yellow Bins,” possibly from Planet Aid for recycling clothing, but has not seen them lately. This company has been under investigation and according to an NBC Washington article, “Petersen [company owner] is now on the run -- wanted by Interpol -- after the Danish government charged him with charities fraud and tax evasion.” Perhaps this is why the bins are now gone.
The university also has an end of year sale, the, “Clean Sweep Sale,” in which all of the items left “donated” by students are sold with the, “Proceeds will be used to support programs and services offered through UMaine’s Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism, including the Black Bear Exchange, Welcome Weekend Day of Service, and the MLK Day of Service meal-packing event.”
It looks like overall Maine students and the university itself are doing their fair share of recycling and donating instead of contributing to the 81 pounds per year that most people in the United States throw away.
With students returning to school and the season changing from summer to fall, where does last seasons wardrobe go?
In today’s fast food, fast fashion and new is better “than” repairing the old and used, we as consumers are buying more and wasting more. Americans throws away an average of 81 pounds of clothing every year. This is one of the cycles, making the fashion/apparel industries the second most pollutant industry in the world.
On average 84% of Americans do not recycle their unwanted garments, according to a Newsweek article. This means that approximately 252 million people throw away an average adding up to 26 billion pounds of clothing every year, according to a Huffington Post article. In Maine alone, the numbers break down to 20 millions pounds!
This phenomenon is for the most part the end of the fashion/apparel industry cycle and only one contributor in making it one of the most pollutant industries. The manufacturing of textiles is a whole other story that will be discussed in a future article.
One solution is to engage more consumers to recycle the unwanted clothing. In Maine, there are independent stores specializing in consignment, which are money making options for consumers to make some cash from their unwanted attire. The Black Bear Exchange is a great place to exchange your clothing for some new wares or pick up some needed food, it is located on the Maine campus in Orono.
The larger well known stores such as Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads Trading and even Wasteland will buy back better quality merchandise to be resold in their store are set in more urban environments.
Maine also has plenty of thrift stores that would be happy to take in your unwanted garments. A lot of these store, such as Salvation Army and Goodwill are the more well known stores as well as local store such as Tree of Life Food Pantry & Turnstyle Thrift Shop that help the community they are in with the donations they receive.
You may ask, why so many people choose to simply throw their unwanted clothing away? One of the reasons is in the question itself, it is simple and a lot of people are too lazy to donate them. Another reason according to an article on takepart.com, states that many people are unsure what can be donated. Basically it comes down to consumers making choice to throw clothing away because it is more convenient than donating or recycling.
But what if it was easier to recycle, similar to recycling plastic bottles and cans? Most neighborhoods have recycle bins that are put out with the trash to be picked up on trash day, it seems to me that having one specifically for textiles could start to change this habit of waste. The good news is organizations such as Savers have a program Rethink Reuse that is tackling the cause to start minimizing the over 26 billion pounds that ended up in landfills each year. The organization has managed to save 700,000 pounds from ending up in landfills.
This may seem like a small dent in the 26 billion, but every little bit helps and the more consumers are aware, hopefully this trend will not continue.
Back to school shopping, save some money and help the environment at the same time.
81 pounds every years! This is what the average American throws away every year in clothing, according to a Huffington Post article on the subject. It is ironic in this day and age that a good amount of people surveyed for this article said they were not aware they could donate unwanted clothes to thrift and vintage stores.
H&M also introduced a program giving customers 15% off their purchase when they bring in their unwanted clothing items to the store. Hopefully this sexy, trendy H&M ad will entice even the most protective of garment hoarders to help the cause of recycling instead of contributing their 81 pounds from ending up in a landfill.
Stacy Ellen is a nationally and internationally published wardrobe stylist, fashion journalist and creative director, working directly with print and online magazines.