Goodwill Celebrates America Recycles Day with a Focus on Textiles
By Alana Sesow
Every November 15th since 1994, Americans have celebrated National Recycling Day (also known as America Recycles Day). This annual event encourages others to be more mindful of what they consume and responsibly recycle what they no longer need.
But recycling isn’t limited to just paper, plastic and cardboard; thanks to Goodwill, you can recycle your used textiles, too. Here’s how – and why – we do what we do:
The Impact of Textile Waste
It’s easy to trash the textiles, especially when you don’t see where they go. Unfortunately, nothing thrown away truly goes away.
Every year, the U.S. generates 28 billion pounds of textiles: clothing, bedding, shoes and other items made from woven fabric. Of that 28 billion, the EPA estimates that only 19% is donated or recycled, while the other 81% is landfilled.
These textiles don’t just take up space; they decompose in harmful ways, too. When clothes sit in landfills, they don’t biodegrade. Instead, they emit greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane, which contribute to global warming. Additionally, dyed textiles leach dangerous chemicals into the environment, harming our land, water and air.
The Second Life of Textiles
Fortunately, there are alternatives to the landfill.
Donating your textiles gives them a second chance at life. At Goodwill, gently used textiles are sold in our thrift stores across Southeast Nebraska, while items that are torn, stained or don’t meet our production standards are reused in a number of ways:
- Sold as baled bundles. Many of the textiles that can’t be sold in Goodwill stores are baled at our warehouse in North Lincoln. Often, the organizations that buy the baled bundles will ship them to third-world countries, where they are used to meet a variety of needs. Some organizations will distribute the materials as they are while others will use the existing parts to create something new (see image above).
- Used as rags. T-shirts and towels that don’t meet Goodwill production standards are often ripped, turned into cleaning rags and sold in bulk. Occasionally, Goodwill uses these rags to wipe up spills or flooding in our buildings.
- Repurposed in DIY events. Goodwill’s DIY events are made possible by reusable textiles, craft supplies and other donated materials. For example, our 2021 Halloween Make & Take event provided donated cloth for attendees to use to make fabric pumpkins. At the end of our DIY events, we re-donate the leftovers.
“One thing people might not realize is we recycle all of the textiles we don’t sell,” said Scott Rotert, Operations Coordinator at Lincoln Goodwill. “Nothing goes to the trash.”
Turning Textiles into Jobs
No matter the condition of your textiles, Goodwill will find a job for your donations – and find jobs for people, too. Whether your textiles are sold in our thrift stores or at our warehouse, the revenue we collect funds local employment programs and services. Thanks to your donations, we can continue to operate our Job Connection Center: a free computer lab in our downtown Lincoln store that helps local job seekers with employment-related needs, including resume creation, work clothing vouchers, computer skills and more.
Interested in donating your textiles to Goodwill? Click here to find a donation center near you.