Updated: Sep 9, 2022
This Earth Week we wanted to reiterate that the benefits of recycling cannot be understated. It reduces the amount of waste sent to our landfills, conserves natural resources, and prevents pollution by reducing the need for new raw materials.
And that’s just the shortlist.
Unfortunately, not all municipalities in our region offer weekly pickup of recyclable materials. If you live in one of these neighborhoods, don’t despair: There are many resources in our area where you can take your recyclables.
Because it DOES make a difference.
Recycling & You
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, for example, reports that residents and businesses recycled more than 5.47 million tons of resources in 2018 (the most recent data available).
And those recyclables cut more than 9.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions from our air. This number is also equivalent to more than 2 million passenger vehicles taken off the road for one year.
Here’s what you need to know if you want to up your recycling game:
There are databases and search engines designed to specifically help people find recycling drop-off centers and other resources near them. Check out RecycleSearch, Earth911, Call2Recycle, and Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
Check out the resources available here in Allegheny County. The county regularly partners with the PRC to organize collection events. You can check their events calendar to find one near you. There are also periodic Household Chemical Collections and Hard to Recycle / eWaste Collections. Then there’s ReuseFest, a one-day drop-off event for gently used materials destined for reuse by numerous local nonprofit organizations. The Allegheny County Health Department’s recycling division also publishes the Recycling Resource Directory, which gives county residents information about where specific materials can be recycled. In fact, there’s a glass recycling program happening this month.
The Importance of Reusing
While recycling bottles, cans, and other materials is so important, so is reusing – we’re talking about buying second-hand and so-called upcycling of everyday items like clothing.
Why are we talking specifically about your clothes? Because they make a bigger environmental impact than you might think.
In the United States, the number of garments purchased by Americans has tripled since the 1970s. Globally, more than 80 billion items of clothing are purchased each year – the majority of which will be thrown in the trash.
The World Resources Institute estimates that the so-called “fast fashion” industry each year releases about 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
Or to put it another way: In the United States, the number of garments purchased by Americans has tripled since the 1970s. That’s helped lead to a whopping 85 percent of textiles going to the dump each year. And consider this: The equivalent of one garbage truck of clothing is burned or dumped in a landfill every second.
The air quality impact is stunning – the World Resources Institute estimates that the fashion industry annually releases about 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide.
Fortunately, there are many ways each of us can help combat fashion-related waste and pollution. The first is to alter your buying habits.
Here are six other ways you can reduce the carbon footprint of your clothing:
Be mindful of what clothing you are throwing away. If possible, mend or repair clothing and buy second-hand instead of something new.
Ensure your clothing lasts longer. This one is easy – just wash and dry your clothing at lower temperatures and line dry when you can.
Look at those tags if you must buy new. Select garments that are well-made and avoid synthetic materials like polyester, which releases nearly three times the carbon emissions of cotton.
Normalize second-hand shopping. Check out local thrift, vintage, and consignment shops for new-to-you clothes.
Consider donating. There are so many places that accept gently used clothing here locally – so drop them off at a thrift store or nonprofit like Dress for Success.
Know that even stained and torn clothing can be repurposed. If your clothes are beyond repair, don’t toss them out – recycle them. Through what’s called textile recycling, otherwise unwearable clothing items are collected and made into other products. Locally, the University of Pittsburgh now has a number of locations to collect textiles. You can read more about that on the Pitt Sustainability website.
Support companies that are sustainability champions. Before you make your next purchase, do some research. Check out their website and social media presence to determine if your favorite clothing company takes sustainability seriously. Locally, check out stores like Calligramme, Flux Bene, Idia’Dega, Kelly Lane, Knotzland Bowtie Co., Mossy Lane, and Three Pigs Vintage. Did we forget one of your favorites? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add it to the blog!
Here are some local resources to consider:
To learn more about clothes recycling opportunities, check out these organizations and programs:
Editor’s Note: What sustainability-conscious local companies do you support? Drop us a note in the comments below.