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Recycled clothing: What to look for

Mary Fetzer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant with a marketing degree from Penn State University and 15 years of international business experience. Mary specializes in writing about parenting, children, pregnancy, college, h...

Recycle, repurpose, reuse

Recycling is simply taking old stuff and making it new again. American clothing manufacturers are doing just that by recycling plastic bottles, paper and more to create clothing you’ll be proud to wear.

Woman looking at recycled clothing

Recycling clothing vs. recycled clothing

Recycling clothes means passing them along, donating them or using them to make something new, like a blanket or another piece of apparel.

Recycled clothes, on the other hand, are clothes that are created from other things. Athletic apparel manufacturer Champion, for example, has just introduced its Eco Fleece line. According to the company's website, "Every sweatshirt is made with fibers from recycled plastic bottles." Every purchase of an Eco Fleece item helps Champion keep a few of those bottles from hitting landfills. As part of Hanesbrands Inc., Champion's environmental leadership earned the company an EPA Energy Star 2010 Partner of the Year designation.

Eco-friendly fitness gear >>

Clothes & American landfills

Fashions change so quickly, and we're eager to follow suit. Unfortunately, we don't understand the full impact our clothes obsession has on the environment.

Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year… contributing more than 4 percent of the solid waste stream, says the U.S. EPA Office of Solid Waste. Not only is the quantity a problem, but so is the quality:

  • Polyester clothing is made from petroleum in an energy-intensive process that emits VOCs and acid gases into the air.
  • Nylon production creates dangerous nitrous oxide.
  • Rayon is derived from the wood pulp of water-hungry eucalyptus trees, which are taking the place of earth-friendly old-growth forests.
  • Non-organic cotton is the most pesticide-dependent crop in the world. One-third of a pound of pesticides is used in the making of every single cotton t-shirt.

Additionally, most clothes are chemically dyed or treated with "easy care" agents containing formaldehyde.

Benefits of natural fiber clothing >>

Recycling: the latest fashion trend

Recycling turns potential waste into valuable resources. The EPA explains why recycling is so important for our nation:

  • Recycling protects and expands U.S. manufacturing jobs and increases U.S. competitiveness.
  • Recycling reduces the need for landfilling and incineration.
  • Recycling prevents pollution caused by the manufacturing of products from virgin materials.
  • Recycling saves energy.
  • Recycling decreases emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.
  • Recycling conserves natural resources such as timber, water and minerals.
  • Recycling helps sustain the environment for future generations.

5 Small green changes to make this month >>

More ways to live green

Slowly going green: Learning to live green, week by week
6 Simple eco-friendly product swaps for your home
Eco-friendly fashion

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