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The textile recycling was driven by a donation model that was supported by large non-profit organizations. What do you see as the business benefits for this sector?
The need to donate clothing still exists, and should not change. As consumers become more aware of the enormous amount of textiles that are still going to our landfills and the impact that has on our environment today and for generations to come, they will be less likely to just toss out any textile waste. This will result in more textiles being donated to non-profit organizations or taken to recycling bins, which is a huge win-win situation for both sides of the textile waste stream.
Clothing & textiles are not included as household materials to be recycled. Do you find it difficult to change the attitude of the public from donate to recycle? What are the measures being taken by the textile waste processing industry to increase the awareness of the public?
Like any other recycling, it takes time to educate the general public and to develop a sense of urgency to keep textiles out of our landfills. Some feel that schools are a good place to start, as children can have an impact on what parents will do in their individual homes to help the environment.
Recycling textile bins are also showing up across the country to make it more convenient for consumers to recycle their textiles. There are also web sites designed to consumers as to what can be recycled in every area of recycling, including textiles.
What are some of the other challenging areas to make progress across the industry, be it technology or marketing?
New research is being implemented in several industries to tap into this commodity and keep the large amounts of textiles out of the landfills. At Miller Waste Mills, we are continually working with different industries to create products that will work for their particular needs, such as new clothing, building insulation, furniture padding, or for storm water and oil filtration. The most challenging aspect is to tear down post-consumer textiles and reuse them in an affordable commodity.
The public often expects a recycled product to be less expensive, as it is made from post- consumer materials. In fact, the used material has to be torn down, processed, and then made into something new. It's important that a consumer weigh the benefits to the environment, it is worth the additional cost for recycled products. It will take time and education for consumers to change their perspective on the cost of purchasing a recycled item rather than a disposable one. Utilizing technology and marketing campaigns to increase awareness and provide education are crucial parts of making progress in these areas.
A report by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that an average person discards 70 pounds (32 Kgs) of clothing per year in the US. Do you see a change in the scenario with the introduction of waste processing industry?
The amount of textiles being recycled by the average person should definitely increase as consumers become more educated on the impact of textile waste going to landfills and the many advantageous uses of textile waste when it is recycled. According to the EPA, textile recycling also has a major impact on reducing greenhouse gases. It is this sort of environmentally-conscious information that will help consumers choose recycling, rather than disposal, of textiles.
Donation sites and collection centers need to partner with the waste processing industry in communicating with consumers that they can utilize even "damaged" clothing. As consumers begin to understand that those old worn out blue jeans can be broken down and made into insulation for homes, stuffed toys can end up as padding, and cotton can be made into paper or even used for oil filtration, they will gravitate toward recycling their textiles.
Among the various established ways of donating textiles which method do you see as important but are not commonly implemented enough? Have you considered anything similar to that for your consumers?
Curb-side recycling has drastically increased the recycling of many post-consumer items. However, it can be difficult to recycle textiles in this way as the threat of contamination from other waste is a concern. In some areas, a program promoting the use of heavy duty bags that can be placed curb-side is being implemented. Some of the key considerations include the strength of the bags (to protect the textiles from contamination), the cost of the bags, and the delivery of the bags to the consumer.
Textile recycling bins are another way textile recyclers are trying to make it more convenient for the consumer to deposit their textiles.
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