Disposing of rotten fruit (of the loom)

Folding clean laundry and putting it away isn’t a project that makes me quiver with anticipation, but when it comes to menial but necessary chores, there are far more odious ones to attend to. However, sometimes performing the most innocuous tasks can lead to healthy self-analysis, and I had such an epiphany- producing experience not long ago.

Every so often, usually two or three times a year, I try to collect some potentially useful items of apparel that I and/or various family members have outgrown or no longer have any practical use for, and subsequently donate them to some organization that will either repurpose them or get them into the hands of someone who’ll value them as much as we once did.

Our family’s typical donation box generally contains books that have occupied the same spot on the shelf for years, or maybe decades; gently-used (or in some cases never-used) appliances; mystery gadgets serving no particular purpose besides taking up space that could be better utilized for something else, and good quality clothing that no longer fits anyone in our house or, for whatever reason, hasn’t been worn since before the last time one of the books we’re giving away was opened.

But there are some things that schools, churches, homeless shelters, and organizations such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army justifiably don’t want. Television sets that are inoperable in my home aren’t going to work any better in someone else’s, and the same goes for inert fans and dead vacuum cleaners. Local libraries don’t need or want books with broken spines or missing pages. And the folks who run church rummage sales have no more interest in holey (as opposed to Holy) t-shirts than anyone else does.

Which brings me back to the day I was putting that freshly-laundered clothing back into its appropriate space. I had a bit of trouble stuffing the clean underwear and socks into their assigned locations, because those drawers were filled to capacity. Closer examination revealed I own several pairs of undershorts that: A) no longer fit; B) have a waistband that has long since lost its elasticity; C) contain more holes than a block of Swiss cheese; or D) have each of the three just-mentioned issues.

It’s no surprise that no charitable organizations accept used underwear donations because, well, would YOU buy someone else’s used underwear? But throwing away old clothing, even undergarments that are more air than fiber, is environmentally irresponsible. Multiple sources report that the world produces 92 million tons of textile waste annually, with China (20,000,000 tons) and the USA (17,000,000) the leading offenders. But what are we supposed to do with all that ratty old underwear?

Well, in at least one local community, there’s an answer. According to the Portland Press Herald, Apparel Impact, a veteran-owned company that operates in New England, now has a textile-recycling box at the Cumberland Town Hall. Residents there can drop off clean, dry sheets, towels, footwear, backpacks, duffle bags, and clothing, including elastic-free socks and tired old underwear! The company distributes still-wearable garments to those who can use them, and repurposes the rest for materials such as mattress stuffing. The service that Impact Apparel offers doesn’t just help individuals who hesitate to throw anything away until it’s utterly useless; they’re serving the greater community as well, since informed estimates indicate that nearly ten percent of local landfills are comprised of textiles.

I am overjoyed to learn about Apparel Impact.

Now if there were only a responsible way to dispose of TVs that don’t televise, fans that don’t blow, and vacuum cleaners that don’t suck.

Andy Young
September 9, 2023

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