Textile Recycling in the City

By Jacqueline Rios

Recycle Unwanted Textiles Sign

Recycle Unwanted Textiles Sign

Recently, I did some pre-spring cleaning in my apartment and took down my old cloth shower curtains. How can you give new life to old textiles and clothes? In New York City, you can take them to one of 19 greenmarkets that accept clothing and textiles for recycling. The program, which is operated by the nonprofit GrowNYC, accepts everything from linens and fabric scraps to belts and paired shoes. They sort and redistribute the textiles to markets where there is a demand for wearable clothing or other materials. Recycled textile fibers can be used for stuffing mattresses.

I have taken old linens (towels, sheets) and unwearable clothing to the drop-off locations. It used to be that the recycling location closest to me was about a mile away and only open on Fridays, but since April 22, 2012, the textile recycling drop-off program has expanded and become more convenient for many New Yorkers. Now, a greenmarket is only five blocks away from my apartment and it’s open on Sundays to take used textiles. They also collect food scraps for composting.

The average New Yorker tosses 46 pounds of clothing and other textiles in the trash each year. The program has collected over 1.8 million pounds of textiles since 2007. For more information on the program, including a list of the drop-off locations across the city, visit their website. It is good to know that when I have clothing and linens that have outlived their useful life and are not nice enough to donate, that there is another option to a landfill.

About the Author: Jacqueline Rios is an engineer with EPA Region 2 working on Clean Water programs.