Tuesday, July 12, 2011
The Volume of Clothing in California’s Residential Waste Stream Increases over Time; More Recycling Programs like Campus California's Collection Boxes Are Needed
The net volume, as well as the proportion of textiles going to the landfill in California keeps increasing because existing recycling programs do not address this material. Campus California clothing donation boxes provide an option for a cost-free and effective program.
Clothing collection boxes placed by organizations like Campus California have become increasingly common in our cities and provide a simple and cost-free option for the general public to dispose of unwanted but still usable textiles. Significant environmental benefits can be gained through clothing reuse not only because textiles in landfills generate methane and other Green House Gases (GHG), but also through decreased use of farmland for water-and-pesticide intensive cotton production.
Waste characterization studies conducted for CalRecycle and its predecessor the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) between 1999 and 2008 show that during this period the overall volume of discarded textiles, as well as the proportion of textiles in the (residential) waste stream has increased significantly.
While in 1999 California’s residents disposed of (landfilled) over 330 000 tons of textiles; in 2008, despite the recession this number was 506 000 tons, a 53% increase. The proportion of textiles in the residential waste stream increased during the same time period from 2.4% to 4.2%, a jump of 75%! As a reference point, the population of the state during the same period increased only by approx. 10%. Studies commissioned more recently by cities across the nation show similar trends and there is little doubt that viable textile recycling programs will need to further reduce the volume of resources buried in the landfills.
Compared to other recyclables like glass or plastic, textiles are much harder to recycle through the common “Blue cart” system because clothing can easily get soiled or damaged during the process of collection and separation from other materials and this makes it unsuitable for further use. To prevent textiles from getting into the same pipeline as other recyclables seems to be a much better solution, and cities and counties are increasingly looking for suitable programs as part of the larger movement towards Zero Waste.
Campus California services the largest number of clothing donation boxes in the San Francisco Bay Area. More than one thousand locations are available for the public’s use 24/7 and more are being added all the time. As a non-profit organization, Campus California uses the proceeds from the sale of collected clothing to support recruitment and training programs for Development Instructors, dedicated international volunteers working with sustainable development projects in different parts of the world. Since the start of the program in 2003 this organization has collected over 10,000 tons of donated clothing; in April 2011 a new branch was open collecting clothing in the Phoenix metro area in Arizona.