COLUMBIA, Mo. – In 2012, Americans sent more than 14 million tons of textile waste to trash dumps around the country, despite many options for consumers to repurpose or recycle textile waste, including donating old clothes to charities and recycling the materials to be remade into other products. Pamela Norum, professor and interim department chair of textile and apparel management at the University of Missouri, found that younger adults from ages 18-34 are much less likely to throw old clothes and other textile waste into the garbage than older adults. She also found that millennials were more likely to donate clothing to secondhand stores such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army.
“It was surprising to see that older adults were less likely to donate to secondhand stores and more likely to use the trash than younger adults,” Norum said. “Baby Boomers grew up when the recycling culture was coming of age, so we thought they would be more willing to recycle their used clothes rather than throwing them in the trash. However, it was gratifying to see that younger Americans are more likely to recycle textiles; hopefully they will carry on that behavior into the future.”
For her study, Norum examined data from a 2012 survey of more than 500 U.S. consumers. Overall, she found: