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Oct. 7, 2010 Volume 31, No. 7

Recycle your closet


MU expert says old clothes have many uses

We are often reminded of the importance of recycling our cans and bottles, but what about our clothes?

Jana Hawley, professor and chair of the Department of Textile and Apparel Management in the University of Missouri College of Human Environmental Sciences, wants to increase sustainability in the textile industry.

Textiles are nearly 100 percent recyclable, yet thousands of pounds of materials wind up in landfills each year. Hawley suggests taking old clothes to Goodwill or the Salvation Army instead of throwing them away. Charities sort through the clothing, and whatever cannot be resold to customers can be sold to rag dealers, who send it to disaster relief efforts and Third World markets.

In developing countries, young entrepreneurs find material they can turn into high quality goods, which they sell. Hawley says European countries have found ways to be more responsible when manufacturing clothes.

“Europe tends to sort their clothing more efficiently,” Hawley said, “but they generally have less bulk clothing to deal with.”

One problem, Hawley said, is that many Americans buy clothes that are created quickly and cheaply. Unfortunately, the so-called “slow fashion” movement — well-made, locally produced clothing — is slow to gain popularity due to high labor costs and the price of the clothes themselves.

Hawley has been a published expert on textile recycling for more than a decade. Her research focuses on the process of recycling textiles and how consumers can make the textile industry more sustainable.