• 48% of used textile products are reused as second hand clothing and sold to developing nations.
  • 6% is sold domestically.
  • 20% is turned into rags and wiping cloths
  • 26% is converted into fibres, and upcycled into materials such as carpet underlay and vehicle padding.
  • Wool items are consolidated in India, where the fibres are separated and then reused. 

The manufacturing of nylon emits nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas with a carbon footprint 310 times that of carbon dioxide. Rayon, derived from wood pulp, relies on clearing old-growth forests to make way for water-hungry eucalyptus trees. 

What Happens to Recycled Clothing?

Clothing production is a resource-intensive endeavour. Fertile crop land is required to grow crops for textile production, and large amounts of pesticides and insecticides are applied to these crops. In the case of leather, large areas of land must be set aside to raise the animals slaughtered for their hides, as well as crops to feed them.

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Polyester, one of the most commonly used fibers, is made from petroleum in an energy intensive process, which emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and acid gases into the air as a by-product. The process also requires large amounts of water for cooling. Garments labelled “easy care” or “permanent press”, praised for their lack of wrinkles and ability to maintain shape, are treated with formaldehyde to produce these results.

Textile Recycling Benefits Everyone

Cotton is the most pesticide dependant crop in the world. It takes approximately 1/3 of a pound of pesticides to produce one t-shirt, as well 2700 litres of water. Incidentally, that’s as much water as the average North American consumes in 2 ½ years. While only claiming 2.4% of crop land, cotton consumes 24% of pesticides and 11% of insecticides used world wide.

Canadians purchase an average of 70 new articles of clothing per year – 85% of which ultimately enters the waste stream and our already strained urban landfills. When these items are donated, we reduce the amount of products going into landfills.

On a global scale, there are enormous gains from re-using still serviceable goods. Since clothing, even used clothing, still has value in the marketplace, it constitutes income to those who receive it. When we discard it, this results in a worldwide economic loss, but when we reuse it, we create worldwide gain. This gain can be used to help those in need. 

Since 2005, Clothing for a Cause has been utilizing recycled clothing and household textiles to provide financial assistance to our non-profit partners.

the Environmental Cost of Clothing Production

Why recycle textiles?

While often promoted as an eco-friendly material, leather is one of the worst environmental pollutants. In addition to the water and resources required to raise animals for their hides, the process of tanning and dyeing leather is a water and chemical intensive process. Leather requires between 40 and 45L/KG of water to produce, and the 20-80 m3 of waste water from one ton of hide contains about 250mg/L of chromium and sulfide concentrations of 500mg/L.

Fossil fuels such as petroleum are required to produc synthetic fibres, and whether synthetic or natural, all fibres must be processed and dyed as they are turned into finished garments. The results of these processes are large amounts of discharged waste water, full of toxic chemicals and heavy metals.

Textile Reycling - Non-Profit Funding

Clothing for a Cause