Americans donate a lot of their clothes and home textiles to charity. In 2007 alone, nearly $6 billion work of clothing donations were sent to veterans charities or turned over to a donation pickup service.
Donations Help the Needy
In March of 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that there were 207,000 veterans who were not able to find work. Quite a few of our veterans and their families rely on veterans charities, as the unemployment rate for our veterans is sadly 2% higher than the national average. A full 80% of donated clothing goes to helping families in need through veterans charities and organizations that help military families, as well as to other charities that accept clothes donations. In fact, 80% of donated clothes will be used by a veterans charity or some other organization either to donate directly to the needy or for much-needed funding.
We Have Plenty of Room to Improve
Although American are donating a lot of clothes and textiles to veterans charities and other organizations, we can do a lot more. In 2011 the recovery rate for used clothing was only a bit more than 15% in the United States, and, according to research, 12 million tons of textile waste, including clothes, is thrown out every year in America. We only recycle or donate about 15% of our clothes, and the rest goes to landfills. Textiles have just about the poorest recycling rate of any material we’re able to reuse. Every year, the United States makes or orders about 25 billion pounds of brand new textiles, including clothes, and 85% of that is going to the landfills.
We Need to Protect Our Environment
Our failure to recycle textiles very well is just a symptom of a larger problem. We’re not recycling our solid waste at anything like the rates that we should be. Each of us is generating an average of 4.5 pounds of trash each day, which amounts to a ton and a half of solid waste every year. If we donated more of our clothes to veterans charities, we would keep them out of landfills, where they take up space, gradually compress, and then give off greenhouse gases. If we composted most of the 21.5 million tons of food we throw away every year, it would save the same amount of greenhouse gasses as if we were to suddenly remove 2 million cars from the country’s roads.
Over 95% of American do give to charity in some way and at some level. We’re a generous people. But we could be doing more, and we could be making better use of the perfectly good used clothes that we buy and then throw away in such large amounts. Look through your closets and drawers, and see how you might clear some space, protect the environment, and do good for others. Find organizations that accept clothing donations and put your unwanted textiles to good use today.