Textiles are recycled for use as a number of different products, including paper, polishing cloths, insulation and compost, according to the EPA. More than 500 companies in the United States are involved in the textile recycling industry.
Almost half of the textiles that are discarded are donated to charitable organisations, who resell them at a discount or donate them to the needy. Most of what is given to charity is shipped to foreign countries.
Used clothing that is not otherwise used may be sold to the textile recycling industry, consisting of both primary processors, which employ about 10,000 workers, and secondary processors, which employ about 7,000 workers. Gross sales from primary processing total about £260 million a year, while secondary processing accounts for £195 million.
The textile recycling industry processes about 2.5 billion lbs. of textile product waste in the United States. Most of the industry consists of family-owned businesses whose workers are semi-skilled or unskilled.