WASHINGTON—A recent study from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that textile waste has increased by 811% since 1960.
From 1960 to 2015, the EPA estimates the amount of textile waste has gone from 1.7 million tons at the beginning of the study to 16 million tons by the end—an increase of more than nine times. Approximately two-thirds of the textile waste ends up in landfills.
According to the EPA, the primary source of textiles in municipal solid waste (MSW) is from discarded clothing and footwear. Clothing and footwear account for 11.9 million tons of waste produced in 2015, roughly 4.5% of total MSW. However, small pieces of furniture, carpet, and tires do contribute to the totals.
Supply Chain Dive notes that a majority of this increase is due to the way clothing is used today compared to several decades ago. Jackie King, the executive director of Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (SMART), spoke with Supply Chain Drive on the topic, noting: "In the U.S. particularly, we're huge consumers. We're consumers of a lot of fast fashion, where people are buying clothes, almost disposable clothing, and they may be wearing them a couple times, and then they decide to get rid of them." Working in the clothing and footwear industry the last 10 years, she's seen more clothing headed to the landfill.
Today, there are apparel brands and clothing manufacturers trying to combat this issue by producing and selling goods made from recycled materials and advocating for change.