Campus California is a non-profit organization operating a clothing collection program in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Bakersfield area in California. The proceeds from the sales of collected clothing are used to provide grants for non-profit organizations fighting poverty in the US and abroad.
Campus California debunks three misconceptions regarding the textile recycling industry and clothing collection boxes. The collected items are sold wholesale and the surplus is used to fund programs that train and send volunteers to developing countries in Africa and South America. Textile reuse has strong environmental benefits and also allows the organization to contribute towards improving human conditions and eliminating poverty locally and overseas.
Its clothing donation drop-off boxes, which are spread throughout the San Francisco Bay area, and more recently in Phoenix, Arizona's metro area, prevent used textiles from entering landfills.
Due to recent controversy over the limited landfill availability in the United States, Campus California addresses three common myths to help inform consumers about where their used clothing may be headed:
Myth #1: Only rags and/or scraps go to landfills, not reusable, wearable clothing.
The truth is, a majority of all used textiles, such as clothes, shoes, sheets and other materials, are entering the waste stream. While environmental efforts are growing in the United States, in 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that the recovery rate for all textiles was only 14.9 percent or 1.9 million tons, while 10.9 million tons of discarded clothing was dumped into landfills last year, says idonategoods.com.
Myth#2: All donated clothing should be distributed for free to the needy or to local thrift stores.
In reality, many thrift stores are overwhelmed with donations and there is no local demand to reuse all donated textiles.
Campus California's Public Relations Manager Jan Sako says, "I have spoken to a number of people from the general public who are firmly convinced that all donated clothing is or should be distributed to the needy locally or sold in thrift stores locally. People are generally not aware of the vast amounts of textiles that go to landfills because in a lot of areas there are many more people disposing of clothing than poor people needing these or just people shopping for used clothing. People should donate to their church or charity that distributes clothing locally, but 10+ million tons a year is just much more than all the needy people in America can use."
Myth#3: It is better to bury textiles in local landfills than transport them over long distances for recycling.
The energy saving and environmental benefits from not needing to produce new textiles are vastly larger than the energy costs of collecting and transporting used clothing to new markets. Landfills have recently gotten positive attention for their waste-to-energy methane capture and carbon sequestration, but safely maintaining landfills for a long period of time is not as cost effective as recycling the clothing. According to a 2004 CBS Interactive Business Network article, the initial construction cost of building a landfill is estimated at $33 to $36 million with $4.7 to $5.3 million annual landfill operating costs. .
Clothing donation drop-off boxes are a very easy, convenient and environmentally responsible way to dispose of unwanted clothing and shoes. In 2010, Campus California collected over seven million pounds from the San Francisco Bay Area alone. According to statistics by the EPA and The Council for Textile Recycling, reusing and recycling creates four to ten times more jobs than disposal and land-filling on a per-ton basis.