Recycle your old, tattered clothes

Of course, you can donate your hand-me-downs, but what happens to the duds too tattered and torn to give away? You may want to think twice before getting rid of them.

Mother of four Katrina Drones knows all too well that kids go through clothes fast. But her growing brood doesn't fit into each other's outfits anymore, so she bags the clothes up and passes them down. At first she sends them to friends and then whatever's left she donates to charity. But what happens to the clothes that are ripped beyond repair?

"I have actually thrown some clothes away if they have holes in them," said Drones.

Emily Main, senior editor of the National Geographic Green Guide, points out, "There's no need to send it to a landfill."

Ninety-three percent of textiles are recyclable. Yet we reuse only about 15 percent, clogging our landfills with 10 tons of trash each year.

Main says just like with glass, paper or plastic, there are many uses for tattered clothes.

"They get turned into stuffing for couches. Really fine high quality stationery is made out of recycled cotton rags. It's used as stuffing in car doors for acoustic insulation," said Main.

There are several options to take your recyclable clothes and rags, including the same charities that take your donations.

Salvation Army prides itself on leaving nothing to waste. About 40 percent of the clothes are sold in their stores.

"What doesn't sell is recycled. Whether they are resorted and resold in other countries or they're sorted and then reprocessed to be used for other types of materials," said Henry Filoteo, The Salvation Army.

There are also for-profit companies like U'SAgain. The company's mission is to reduce landfill waste and help the environment. It has 8,000 drop boxes nationwide.

"The advantage that U'SAgain provides is to make clothes collection convenient," said Mattias Wallander, chief executive officer of U'SAgain.

No matter who collects the clothing, it's sold by the bale to textile recyclers who break it down.

Christopher Walsh, vice president of operations at Leigh Fibers, explains what his company does: "We take it from a thread or yarn state down to a fibrous state, which allows us to mix it with other fibers that our customers need for their products."

The Salvation Army says people don't realize recycling is an important part of their fundraising efforts.

"Every dollar that we receive in recycling, that's another dollar that we can funnel into our programs," said Filoteo.

Drones is all about helping others and is excited to make her next drop-off. This time it'll include all the castoffs in her house.

"Just because my kids can't wear the clothes anymore doesn't mean it's something that I need to throw away," said Drones.

The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is a global charity organization founded on the principles of Christian service. The Salvation Army offers disaster relief services, drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, youth camps, and services for veterans and the elderly. Such services are offered in 115 countries. Operations are funded by charitable donations and through a network of thrift stores.

National Geographic Green Guide
Green Guide is a website and magazine published by the National Geographic Society as part of its global commitment to inform and inspire people to care about the planet. The Green Guide offers easy tips to live in an environmentally-aware manner. The Green Guide shows people how to make small changes that add up to big benefits for their wallets, for their health, and, of course, for the health of the planet.

U'S Again is a textile recycling company. Its mission is to divert clothing and other textiles from the nation's landfills. Clothing is collected in some 8,000 drop boxes set up in cities nationwide. It is then sold to textile sorters and redistributed to be sold or given away by in Central America or Africa, or sold to textile recyclers who reclaim the fabric and fibers.

Leigh Fibers
Leigh Fibers is one of the world's leading processors of textile waste and fiber by-products. Leigh Fibers' business involves the reprocessing of textile waste and by-products, including thread waste, filament waste, remnants, carpet thread waste, softback carpet scraps, polyester, polypropylene, acrylic, rayon and apparel cuttings. Leigh offers about 150 grades of processed textile wastes and by-products, including white thread waste for filters, polyester filaments for blankets, apparel cuttings for automotive sound deadening pads, and cuttings and threads for mattress insulator pads.

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