On Earth Day (April 22), and through Earth Week, the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (SMART) Association is reinforcing its message to consumers and industry to help preserve the Earth's wildlife by reusing and recycling textiles (any fabric made of interlacing fibers such as clothing, towels, bed sheets and much more), thereby significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Earth Day 2019's theme is "Protect Our Species," a global movement encouraging education, raising awareness of the accelerating rate of extinction of millions of species and encouraging lifestyle changes. Textile recycling must be an active part of this critical campaign.
"Today's unprecedented global destruction of wildlife populations is of great concern," said Earth Day Network president Kathleen Rogers in a news release issued earlier this month. "Climate change, deforestation, habitat loss, trafficking and poaching, unsustainable agriculture, pollution and pesticides all take their toll."
Reusing textiles saves the environment from tons of harsh chemicals, waste products and waste water used in the manufacturing of new textiles. Additionally, when textiles are thrown away instead of recycled, they end up in landfills, resulting in increasing greenhouse gas emissions that have the potential to wipe out plant and wildlife species across the planet.
What is the impact of the greenhouse effect on animals? Greenhouse effects occur when heat from the sun is trapped in the earth's atmosphere, according to Sciencing.com. Trapped heat increases global temperatures, which directly affects food sources and habitats for animals. For instance, increasing temperatures can cause an increase in global water temperature which results in the death of vital sources of algae for small fish. Small fish are a direct source of food for larger fish; thus, warming waters cause a ripple effect in the food chain, eventually leading to fewer fish and a reduced food supply for animals, including humans.
However, SMART believes there is hope for a healthier planet through textile reuse and recycling, a viable method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, current clothing and textile recycling has a greater impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions than the recycling of yard waste, glass and plastic.
"Reuse and recycling of clothing and textiles is the equivalent of removing 1.3 million cars from America's highways and is equal to the impact of aluminum recycling," explains SMART's Executive Director, Jackie King. "It is also more impactful than plastic and glass recycling, but many consumers don't realize their household textiles can be recycled...and most textiles therefore end up in landfills."
SMART aims to educate consumers that they can play a part in improving the environment. According to the association, 81 pounds of textiles per person are thrown away annually, leaving them destined to decay in landfills. However, old clothes, shoes, towels, sheets, curtains, stuffed animals and more can be recycled as long as they are clean, dry and odor-free.
Consumers with items they would like to ensure are recycled are encouraged to seek out collection bins in their towns or neighborhoods. SMART recommends looking for a collection bin that follows the SMART Code of Conduct.
"You may also donate your items to your favorite thrift store or charity like Savers, Goodwill, Salvation Army or St. Vincent de Paul," says King. "Even if your items can't be resold or re-worn, these groups will ensure they are properly recycled and don't end up in landfills."