New Yorkers are throwing away more textiles instead of recycling, study finds

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NEW YORK — New York City residents are throwing away less than they did 12 years ago, according to the Department of Sanitation’s Waste Characterization Survey released in April. The average household pitched less than 1,990 pounds of waste in 2017. That’s down from about 2,280 pounds in 2005.

But less than a quarter of what residents set out on the curb each week belongs in a landfill.

Recyclable materials such as paper, plastic, metal and glass make about 68 percent of the 3.1 million tons of waste that is thrown out. Other materials such as textiles makes up another 9 percent.

NYC 2017 Residential Waste Profile / NYC Department of Sanitation


This means that about 23 percent of the city’s waste is actual trash that should end up in landfill.

“The study is a reflection of what we buy and choose to get rid of. It shows how consumer activity has changed through the years and hopefully makes us think about the impact of our purchasing decisions,” NYC Department of Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said. “The study also shows us that we have incredible opportunities to develop and grow programs to achieve even more.”

GrowNYC is a nonprofit that aims to improve the city’s quality of life through the different environmental programs they operate. One of their initiatives is trying to get more residents to donate their old or used textiles, such as clothing, towels and shoes, rather than throwing them away.

Since 2007, GrowNYC has collected over 5 million pounds of clothing.

“We hear from a lot people all the time who didn’t know about us or this resource,” Christina Salvi, the Assistant Director of Zero Waste Programs at GrowNYC, said.

The Department of Sanitation estimated the average household threw away about 125.2 pounds of textiles last year. This is up from the average reported in 2005 which was 110.3 pounds.

Through GrowNYC, people can drop off clothing, lines and other textiles weekly at any of the 26 greenmarkets the organization operates.

“People will just clean out their closet or apartments and give us what they don’t want, use or wear anymore.” Salvi said. “We’ll take just about anything. We’ll sort through the donated material and will find a use for it all.”

The textiles are gathered by Wearable Collections, a NYC based company, that sorts through the donations to recover any usable clothing to distribute to second-hand markets. Material that is deemed unsuitable for reuse will go to recycling markets where items may be used as other things, such as rags.

The Department of Sanitation also provides a number of resources that offer textile donations. RefashionNYC is one of them, and up to 10 collection bins can be placed throughout an apartment building per request. The items collected go to the nonprofit Housing Works that sells or recycles the textiles.

“While we’re seeing New Yorkers generate less trash overall, they are still throwing out lots of clothing and other material that could be donated or recycled,” Garcia said. “We’re continually trying to think about what we could do to bring those numbers up.”

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