What Consumers Do With Their Unwanted Clothing?
Katherine Brewster, Jana M. Hawley, University of Missouri, USA
Keywords: Sustainability, textiles, discard
In today’s fast fashion culture, people are disposing of clothes faster and more frequently than ever before. The waste from this disposal accounts for 13 million tons of solid waste per year (US EPA, 2009). Finding out how consumers dispose of their clothing is the first step in making a more sustainable lifecycle for textiles. This exploratory study used the Personal Mind Mapping technique to learn what consumers do with their unwanted clothing. Mind mapping is helpful because, unlike a survey, it allows respondents to write freely ...view middle of the document...
Recycling included responses such as textile recycling, reusing items, handing them down or selling them. The three words prompted almost any method of disposal a participant might use but allowed them to decide what category was the best- fit. None of the participants had participated in mind mapping before and some struggled to understand the concept at the beginning.
Participants’ results were somewhat consistent. Most often, they trashed items that had holes or stains and therefore, in their minds, could not be donated. There were 5 participants (36%) that responded they reused garments as rags. There were 6 (43%) that mentioned convenience as their reason for varying behaviors. This is consistent with other studies that revealed that convenience is a strong indicator of recycling behavior (Domina and Koch, 2002). All respondents reported that they donated items that were accepted at charities and 10 (71%) also sold to consignment stores. Many reported that they consign what they can and then donate the rest. Charities mentioned included Goodwill, Salvation Army as well as two local charities. Not one respondent mentioned textile recycling and two were confused at the idea of being able to recycle clothes. None of the respondents lived in a state that has easy recycling methods such as curb-side pickup or drop-off options.
The findings concluded that participants only trashed clothing when they no longer knew of a use for it. Trashing was always used as a last resort when they knew they would not be able to give the item away. All of these textiles are being put into landfills because consumers do not know what else to do with them. The Personal Mind Mapping showed negative thoughts connected with the trash option and positive thoughts with the recycle and donate options. In order to create a cradle-to-cradle lifecycle for a garment there is still a missing link, which is textile recycling. Textile recycling was not a method any of the...