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I just read a very interesting blog post where I learned more about what happens to the clothing we donate to Goodwill, Salvation Army, and similar organizations. The Afterlife of Used Clothing points out that about 20% of donated clothes is actually resold as is; much of the rest of it sent off to textile recyclers who use the material in a variety of ways:
"According to the trade organization Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (SMART), less than half of the clothing processed by textile recyclers is of a high enough quality to continue as clothing. About 20 percent of postconsumer apparel is so busted up it is sold to fiber buyers, who break it down into component fibers for reuse in a variety of products from insulation to carpet padding and building materials. Another 30 percent is sold to the industrial wiping-rag industry for about eight cents per pound. Only a small sliver, 5 percent, is thrown away."
Here is a link to SMART should you be interested in finding a textile recycler in your area. When you pass along those old t-shirts and jeans, you just never know where they might end up. It's fun to think about old clothing being repurposed into a product that will help keep people's homes warm in the winter.