Rewear, Reuse, Recycle
About Gaia's Clothing Collection
You put your clothing and shoes in a Gaia Movement collection box. Once a week (or more often), we collect the clothing from the boxes. The clothing is brought to a Gaia Movement warehouse in Chicago, Sacramento, or Fresno. When the clothing and shoes are collected, they become a commodity called "credential" or "original" used clothing.
The term "credential" refers to clothing and shoes that have been collected from the public, but have not been sorted.
Clothing collected in California, is packed loose into a trailer and sold to sorting houses.
Clothing collected in the midwest arrives at the Chicago warehouse where it is made into 1,000 pound bales. This clothing undergoes a minimal sorting-- shoes, books, toys, and household goods are removed, because they would not survive the baling process. Shoes are put into large bags called "cap sacks" and sold separately. Toys and household goods are put into boxes for resale.
The best clothing out of the credential used clothing becomes "Shop A", while other nice clothing is referred to as "Shop B." This clothing is typically sold at thrift stores in the USA, Canada, Europe, and developed parts of the world. When you go shopping at the thrift store, this is what you see.
The other useable clothing is known as "Mixed Rags." This is clothing that may not be fasionable or may have small tears, stains, or minor imperfections. This clothing is usually exported to developing countries where the resale, repair, and re-styling of second hand clothes supports many small businesses and improves access to quality clothing for low income people.
The major benefits of rewearing clothing are two-fold:
Democratizing access to quality clothing
Historically, high quality clothing has been a privilege of the wealthy. This continues today in the developed world as clothing brands use high prices to prevent working class people from purchasing their brand. In the poorer parts of the world, there may be a developed textile industry; however, the development (or, more properly, re-development after centuries of concerted European colonial actions to destory local production) of industrial textile production in poor countries has typically been for export purposes. Production of clothing for local sale in poor countries (especially in rural areas) is usually carried out by local artisans. Such small scale results in prices that are out-of-reach for the poor.
By collecting clothing for people to re-wear, we help to break down the class barriers to quality clothing, and we help to blur class distinctions that clothing signals.
Reduction of environmental impact due to clothing production
Production of clothing is a resource intensive activity with an environmental impact. The raw materials must be cultivated or extracted, processed into fabric, turned into garments, and transported to market. Every step in the process increases environmental impact.
For example, let's look at the cultivation of the most commonly used fiber-- cotton. Cotton is typically produced in large-scale monocrop agriculture. As a result of monocropping practice, cotton requires large amounts of insecticides and pesticides. In fact, cotton production accounts for about 1/4 of world insecticide use. For every 3 pounds of cotton produced, 1 pound of agricultural chemicals are used. In recent years, farmers looking to reduce useage of agricultural chemicals have turned to transgenic cotton, which has been genetically modified to produce delta endotoxins (insecticides) and for enhanced resistance to herbicides ("Round-up Ready"). The USDA estimated in 2010 that 73% of cotton planted in the USA was genetically modified to produce pesticides, and 78% was engineered for herbicide tolerance.
Clothing that cannot be reworn still has value. The materials can be reused in other ways.
- You can reuse your old clothing at home as cleaning rags or as material to make a quilt or purse or something else.
- Unusable cotton clothing that is identified at textile sorting houses is turned into cotton wiping rags for industrial use.
- Zippers and buttons are removed from clothing during the textile recycling process and sold on for use in new clothing.
Some clothing that we receive cannot be reworn or reused. There are many more industrial processes that can be called recycling of textiles.
Here are some examples of textile recycling:
- Cotton clothing is shredded into a fiber form. These fibers can then be processed into insulation, under-carpet padding, and stuffing for upholstery.
- Wool can be reclaimed and used to produce new garments.
- Nylon can be reprocessed into nylon pellets, which are used to make new products from nylon.
- Polyester can be recycled to polyester chips for use in new polyester products like clothing and electronic circuit boards.
- One Gaia customer has even found a way to turn textile dust into fuel.
In addition to clothing, Gaia receives many items in our donation boxes that are unuseable. We want to recycle as much of this material as possible, with a goal of becoming a zero waste organization.
Plastic & Metal-- We are able to recycle all types of plastic at a facility that grinds the plastic for use in new products. Before recycling plastic all the metal and foreign materials must be removed. Volunteers use hammers, saws, and screw guns to extract the metal.
Paper & Cardboard-- Most paper products can be easily recycled. Some of the products that are removed from the Gaia-Movement's waste stream are mixed paper, books, magazines, and cardboard.
Other Materials-- The Gaia-Movement also recycles other waste products that are not as big a part of our waste stream. Glass is seperated before being taken to the recycler. Tires and batteries are taken to special facilities to be recycled.
Volunteers are taught how to extract and seperate different materials as a part of our educational recycling program. We can use groups or individuals both weekends and weekdays on our volunteer days. You and your group will learn about recycling and we can have a presentation if desired.