More than 25 billion pounds of textiles are discarded in the U.S. annually, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which equates to about 70 pounds per person, per year. Only about 15 percent of these textiles are collected for reuse or recycling, meaning a staggering 21 billion pounds of clothing and footwear remain destined for the landfill.
Those numbers are pretty grim, especially when you consider what it takes to produce the average shoe or garment: Manufacturing one T-shirt can consume up to 7,900 gallons of water and create 3.6 kilograms of carbon emissions. At the same time, 95 percent–some even say 100 percent–of the materials that make up our favorite fashions are reusable or recyclable, Jennifer Gilbert, chief marketing officer for I:CO, told Triple Pundit, and the water and carbon footprint of manufacturing can be slashed by up to 95 percent by using recycled feedstocks.
I:CO, which stands for “I collect,” is a global, end‐to‐end solutions provider for apparel, footwear and other textiles reuse and recycling. Through its simple take‐back system and worldwide infrastructure, I:CO aims to keep used clothing and shoes in a continuous closed loop product cycle. The company began in Europe five years ago and came across the pond to the U.S. back in 2011. By partnering with top retail brands from around the world, including Levi Strauss & Co., H&M, Puma and the North Face, I:CO gives consumers the resources to recycle used textiles, as well as the education they need to make a behavior change.
The senselessness of tossing valuable materials into the landfill while expending staggering resources to create similar products from virgin feedstocks is more than enough justification for such a program. But Gilbert says an increase in textile recycling is as beneficial for people and profit as it is for the planet–reducing tipping fees, creating jobs and establishing closed loop manufacturing systems in cities around the world.
“It’s all about economic growth: creating jobs, increasing awareness and having this become a way of life,” she told Triple Pundit. “Our goal is to truly eliminate waste.”
To take things a step further, I:CO launched its first ever I:CO City initiative with the city of San Francisco earlier this year. The launch creates a public, private and nonprofit infrastructure to make it convenient and rewarding for residents and businesses to recycle textile related items. In alignment with San Francisco’s goal of zero waste by 2020, I:CO will serve as the lead textile collection and processing partner to divert waste from landfill and give it new life. Click to continue reading »
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