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811% increase in textile waste since 1960

WASHINGTON D.C. – Research conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that textile waste increased from 1.76 million tonnes in 1960 to 16 million tonnes in 2015, a rise of 811 per cent.

The amount of textiles which ended up in landfill has also seen a sharp increase, from 1.71 million tonnes in 1960 to 10.5 million tonnes in 2015 – which equates to around 66 per cent of textile waste.

Some categories of textiles have shown a more substantial waste growth than others. Plastic-based materials have the largest increase in textile waste since 1960 at 8,746 per cent, whilst both rubber and leather have also shown a noted increase at 361 per cent.

On a more positive note, recycled textiles have increased from 50,000 tonnes in 1960 to 2.5 million tonnes in 2015; however this should come as no surprise due to the growth of recycling as an option for the general public since the ‘60s.

The recycling rate for all textiles was 15.3 per cent in 2015, with 2.5 million tonnes recycled. Within this figure, the EPA says it estimated that the recycling rate for textiles in clothing and footwear was 14.2 per cent, based on information from the American Textile Recycling Service.

In May of this year, the Sustainable Fashion Academy’s Mike Schragger spoke with Nin Castle from Reverse Resources along with Ian Brown and Dale Floer from Scalable Garment Technologies. All three interviewees discussed their respective solutions for facilitating the transformation of textile waste into usable, and perhaps most crucially, valuable resources. You can read quotes from the interviews and listen to it in full here.