Every year, landfills throughout the U.S. are deluged with approximately 10.5 million tons of discarded textiles. While textiles may degrade relatively quickly compared to other waste products that end up in landfills, this still represents a net waste of the resources that went into manufacturing these materials. When you use wholesale cleaning cloths that are manufactured from reclaimed materials, you’re helping keep the planet green.
How the Textile Industry Affects the Planet
At present, China is the largest apparel manufacturer in the world. Nearly two-fifths of the clothes and other fashion items that are sold in American stores were made in China.
The cotton used to make these garments is China’s primary cash crop. Cotton is an extremely water-intensive crop; scientists estimate that it takes as many as 20,000 liters of water to grow and process a single kilogram of cotton.
China’s clothing industry is one of that nation’s top polluters, discharging more than 2.5 billion tons of wastewater every year. Textile wastewater contains large amounts of dyes and other chemicals that have the potential to cause great harm to the environment as well as to human health. These chemicals have been linked to dermatitis, skin ulcerations, nausea and hemorrhage among other things. The dispersed dyes also act to block sunlight, thereby inhibiting photosynthesis in plants that live in the streams and rivers where the waste chemicals are dumped; this has an effect on the entire food chain.
The secondhand clothing industry in the U.S. is very big. Americans routinely recycle what they’ve cleaned from their closets to stores like secondhand clothing stores like Good Will and the Salvation Army. The U.S. is also the world’s largest exporter of secondhand clothing, exporting more than a billion pounds of clothing to countries throughout the Third World every year. Even so, the average American throws away approximately 70 pounds worth of shoes and clothing every year.
Increasingly, forward-thinking businesses are thinking about ways to repurpose used clothing in ways that take these garments beyond fashion. Many people, in fact, use old clothing as cleaning tools, so businesses here are taking a leaf from thrifty householders.