How Textile Waste Is Creating An Environmental Disaster

By Bailee O'Connell - Intern @TheChayahMovement

In 2010, Americans threw out over thirteen million tons of textiles. Even more disturbing than that is the fact that only fifteen percent of such was recycled. The rest was sent to several landfills to decompose. However, as these textiles disintegrate they release a chemical called methane, a greenhouse gas that harms the environment and hugely contributes to global warming. Often times, these textiles contain dyes and substances that can poison both the soil and groundwater. 

Not only do these textiles cause problems for the environment, they cause problems in terms of space. In fact, eleven million tons of the textiles that are not recycled uses nearly one hundred and twenty-six million cubic yards of landfill space, and that’s all in one year. 

According to Jason Kibbey, CEO of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), "Natural fibers go through a lot of unnatural processes on their way to becoming clothing. They've been bleached, dyed, printed on, scoured in chemical baths." These substances can drain from the textiles, contaminating groundwater and burning the items in incinerators can deliver those poisons into the air. Meanwhile, synthetic fibers, like polyester, have the same environmental disadvantages, and because they are essentially a type of plastic, they will take hundreds of years to biodegrade.

There are many ways to help avoid the issues that support these overwhelming statistics, though simply being more mindful of what you're buying while also keeping in mind, how and where it was made will make an immense difference.