In 2009, textiles accounted for 5.2 percent of the municipal waste stream and only 13.8 percent were recycled. That means about 10.8 million tons of clothing and textiles ended up in the landfill.
The thing is, much of the clothing that ends up getting tossed can actually be reused or salvaged by non-profit organizations like Campus California to raise money for good causes.
Campus California began in 2000 as a school that recruited and trained volunteers for development projects in Africa. A clothing collection program was started as a sustainable way to raise funds. The school closed last year, but the collection program remains to help fund partner organizations that continue development programs throughout the world.
“We at Campus California consider ourselves as a part of the local, as well as the global community,” says Jan Sako, P.R. and Expansion Manager for Campus California. “We serve as a link between those that have a need for a service and those that have a need for affordable clothing, be it in the U.S. or overseas.”
The organization collects clothing and shoes via green boxes placed strategically throughout California in parking lots and business centers.
In April, it expanded into the Phoenix metro area with 196 boxes, and Sako says the results are promising.
Last year, the organization collected over 7 million pounds of clothing, which after it was processed and sold, raised $213,000 for two other non-profits that placed volunteers in projects in Africa and South America.
Sako says that the recovery rate is steadily increasing year over year, and with the expansion into Phoenix, Campus California hopes to continue to grow business not only to bolster charity efforts, but also to help the planet.
“The positive environmental effects come from savings in water usage, pesticides and a number of toxic chemicals commonly used to grow cotton and in the process of producing the fabric,” Sako says. “Additionally recycling creates many times the number of jobs compared to disposal, in collecting, sorting and re-selling of used clothing.”
Recycling your old clothes is often as easy as putting them in a box outside the grocery store or library.
In California, clothing collection organizations are required to disclose whether the box is owned by a for-profit or non-profit company and what will happen to the donations. Because other states may not have these requirements, Sako suggests seeking out organizations the clearly define their mission and end result of the donations on their boxes.
“Please do not throw away your clothes,” Sako says. “The vast majority of textiles are easily reusable or recyclable; there is no reason at all for them to be disposed in landfills.”