One Shirt, Two Paths: Reducing Textile Waste
What’s the smart way to reduce local textile waste?
A staggering 4,500 pounds of clothes, shoes, purses, and bedding are dumped into San Francisco’s landfills every hour – consuming 5% of the total volume. Even for the world’s wealthiest economy this amount of trash is embarrassing, more so when you learn that most of these textiles are actually too good to waste. Reselling, repurposing, and recycling these items would extract more of their value and make better use of their virgin resources before end of life.
As part of its ambitious plan to reduce landfill waste to zero by 2020, the City of San Francisco is tackling the textile waste issue on several fronts. One initiative with a multi-national for-profit company will encourage residents to bring their used clothing to retailers who will magically whisk it out of our region and off to markets in the developing world. Another supports the work of the nonprofit social enterprise SFGoodwill, which has for almost 100 years turned unwanted textiles into local jobs that offer the chronically unemployed a pathway out of poverty.
Which is the smarter solution for our community? Below, we break it down. You decide.
Everyone agrees that we must reduce the amount of textiles landing in the landfill. We believe that if you take away the textiles, you take away the jobs. The EPA estimates that for every job currently held by putting waste in landfill, nine to ten new jobs can be created repurposing, re-using, or up-cycling the same materials. Locally, at least some of these jobs could go to the chronically unemployed for whom SFGoodwill is often a last hope. But that’s just our point of view. What’s yours?