By Bonita Wilborn
Paper, plastic, and aluminum cans are all items that you might quickly think of that are regularly discarded and are filling landfills all over the nation. For that reason, those items are among the most common items to be recycled. But there are other items filling the landfills that also need to be recycled.
Every year tons and tons of unwanted fabric end up in landfills nationwide. It is called textile waste, and it is made up of discarded fabric. This includes everything from old sheets, to clothes, socks, underwear, and etc. Textile waste m akes up a total of 6% of everything put in landfills each year.
“Six percent may not sound like much but it is billions of pounds of fabric,” said Jackie King, Executive Director of Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART). “Unfortunately, 95% of that material could be reused or recycled.”
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 46.5 billion tons of trash end up in America’s landfills ever year. It costs $41 for a ton of garbage to go into a landfill. That means textile waste alone, costs American taxpayers just shy of $115 billion every year.
“That is a huge cost,” said King. “Communities, cities, towns, and states are looking for what we are going to do as our waste piles up – glass, paper, plastic. The next big component is textile waste.”
A family owned business in Fort Payne called Zkano Socks is doing its part to fight the problem. Zkano and the parent company Emi-G Knitting have been recycling textile waste for many years. Emi-G Knitting and Zkano has a current overall manufacturing waste of only 2% while the industry norm is 15%-30%. No doubt they are very proud of the status they’ve reached in waste control. Nevertheless, manufacturing waste is only the tip of the iceberg, as American homes generate lots of textile waste on a daily basis.
Perhaps you don’t think of fabric as waste, but in essence, everything you put into your garbage can becomes waste. Used clothes, socks, sheets, and other fabrics are clogging landfills in America and costing taxpayers big bucks.
Emi-G Knitting and Zkano are hoping to reshape your view of recycling beyond the items that you regularly place in a recycle bin for weekly pick up. In doing so, owner Gina Locklear created a program to specifically recycle old socks. The program suggests you begin the 3R system of: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
Reduce – Buy only high quality, sustainable items that you truly love. You’ll wear these things more frequently and, because better quality means increased durability, you won’t have to purchase replacement items nearly as often, thus reducing the amount of waste you are generating when you buy on impulse and then end up discarding the item after you wear it once or twice.
Reuse – Give your clothes things a new life. You can donate to a charity or find ways to repurpose clothing items. As a family of sock makers, the Locklears have been practicing “reuse” in creative ways for many years. They repurpose leftover clothing items. Here are a few tried-and-true favorite uses:
• Dust rag -Slip a sock on your hand, dampen with cleaner and have at it. Wash and reuse.
• Drink cozy -Want to insulate your drink? Put a sock on it. Cold stays cold and hot stays hot.
• Heat packs – Fill a sock with rice, seal it and heat in the microwave for 1 minute.
• Draft protector – In the winter, wedge stuffed socks in front of doors to keep cold air out.
• Dog toy – Place a tennis ball inside a sock for an added layer of chewing fun.
Recycle – Old fibers can be reworked and reused. Here’s where Emi-G Knitting and Zkano come in. They have the resources to take socks that are past their prime and have them recycled.
A few years ago, Locklear launched Zkano Recycles. It’s a simple process; people send old socks they were going to toss in the garbage, and Zkano will have them recycled. All they ask is that you please launder the socks before you send them. Packages of socks for recycling come from all over the country, even as far away as New York and California. Once received the socks are placed in giant recycle bin. When the bin gets full, it is delivered to a nearby shredding facility. From there the material is sold to companies that make carpet padding for the automotive industry. So send your old socks to:
Attention: Zkano Recycles Program
1715 Airport Road
Ft Payne, AL 35968
That’s it! They’ll handle recycling from there. At present, Zkano is only set up for recycling socks. No other type clothing or underwear can be accepted at this time. However, this little step can make a big difference in the push to transition toward a sustainable lifestyle.