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Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste and Recycling

Textiles: Material-Specific Data

The main source of textiles in municipal solid waste (MSW) is discarded clothing, although other smaller sources include furniture, carpets, tires, footwear, and other nondurable goods such as sheets and towels.

This web page is a brief summary of textile material-specific data specific to MSW. For more comprehensive information, see the 2015 Data Tables on the Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures Report page.

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Overview

This is a picture of a textiles on a table. There's a wide variety of textiles and colors, including socks, winter hats, and drapes and curtains.EPA measures the generation, recycling, composting, combustion with energy recovery and landfilling of textile material in MSW.

EPA estimated that the generation of textiles in 2015 was 16 million tons. This figure represents 6.1 percent of total MSW generation that year. Generation estimates for clothing and footwear were based in part on sales data from the American Apparel and Footwear Association. EPA also found that significant amounts of textiles enter the reuse market, but the amount of reused textiles is not included in the generation estimate. Reused garments and wiper rags enter the waste stream eventually and become a part of MSW generation.

The recycling rate for all textiles was 15.3 percent in 2015, with 2.5 million tons recycled. Within this figure, EPA estimated that the recycling rate for textiles in clothing and footwear was 14.2 percent based on information from the American Textile Recycling Service. The rate for items such as sheets and pillowcases was 16.3 in 2015.

The total amount of textiles in MSW combusted in 2015 was 3.1 million tons. This was 9.1 percent of MSW combusted with energy recovery.

Landfills received 10.5 million tons of MSW textiles in 2015. This was 7.6 percent of all MSW landfilled.

Please see the EPA Methodology Document for further information on estimating generation and management of textiles.

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Summary Table and Graph

The data below are from 1960 to 2015, relating to the total number of tons of textiles generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2015 Data on Textiles in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2014 2015
Generation 1,760 2,040 2,530 5,810 9,480 11,510 13,220 15,240 16,030
Recycled 50 60 160 660 1,320 1,830 2,050 2,260 2,450
Composted - - - - - - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - 10 50 880 1,880 2,110 2,270 3,020 3,050
Landfilled 1,710 1,970 2,320 4,270 6,280 7,570 8,900 9,960 10,530

Sources: American Apparel and Footwear Association, International Trade Commission, and the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

This is a graph on textile waste management, spanning the years 1960 to 2015. This graph is measured in tons, and shows how much waste was recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery, and landfilled.

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