Recycle & Reuse: How to keep your clothes out of the landfill

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The old advice to sort your clothing by color for washing can be helpful to keep in mind if you care about keeping your clothing from fading.

 

When I first moved out, I started doing all of my laundry and suffered disastrous results.

At first, I thought I had gained a few pounds like everyone else during quarantine. I then realized that not only were my shirts smaller around the waist but unless my arms had grown about two feet in length, I was shrinking my clothes by a lot. I shuddered to think of having to throw away that much clothing and having to re-buy half a wardrobe.

In America, over ten million tons of clothing waste goes into our landfills each year and I didn’t want to see my clothes become a part of that because of a simple laundry mistake. After a little digging, I found I could stretch each piece by first soaking it with baby shampoo and just like this simple solution kept my clothes out of the landfill, we can all make changes to make our clothes last longer.

The first thing I did to correct my own laundry mistake was to buy a drying rack. This has led to multiple benefits for the price of only $16. My clothes are no longer shrinking from my dryer, and I am saving a lot of energy from using my drying rack instead of letting the dryer run. Some people may opt for hanging clothes out on a line but if you have allergies like me, I recommend keeping your clothes away from the pollen.

Another common clothing problem is fading. To keep your dark clothing from fading, turn your items inside out before washing and drying. If you don’t, the colors can rub against other fabrics and fade. If your item is all one color, you can get crafty with a cheap pack of fabric dye and it will look good as new again. Just make sure that you wash it carefully the first couple of times so that you don’t end up dying your other clothes with it.

If your item isn’t underwear, bedding or towels you can also wash it in colder water which will keep it clean, prevent fading, and significantly reduce the emissions created by washing clothing. Some laundry detergent uses fossil fuels and ingredients that will never break down. Try to pick up a detergent that uses more eco-friendly ingredients such as Method or Tide Purclean. And then make sure to recycle the plastic container!

Another great tip that doesn’t involve cleaning or buying anything is to rotate your clothing. We all too commonly wear the same few items over and over, which can cause us to wear out some pieces much faster than they need to be. When you pull out your laundry and fold or hang it, put the clean laundry behind or under the clothes already organized. This will put your less worn pieces at the top of the pile and make it more likely you will wear them out and give your most loved pieces a slightly longer life.

Lastly, learn to repair small damages to your clothing such as a tear, pills or a missing button. This used to be a more commonplace skill, but as clothes got cheaper, and online shopping got more popular, it fell out of fashion, and it has become harder to learn these skills from those around us. Luckily, we live in the age of information and a few YouTube videos and a small sewing kit can have you ready to repair your clothing quickly and for the rest of your life.

Before having to throw away half your clothing or your favorite worn shirt, try out a few or all of these methods to keep your clothes out of the landfill and more money in your pockets.

Amy Hartline is the recycling and education program coordinator for the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority. Have a recycling question? Contact her at (706) 278-5001 or ahartline@dwswa.org.

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