smartthread blog

Thought Leadership April 2022


It is essential for children to learn at an early age why recycling is so vital for our planet. It is important that good recycling habits are ingrained in their everyday lives, so the behavior is the norm and not the exception. The next generation can help build towards a global circular economy, save landfill space, and reduce carbon emissions by simply following recycle and reuse practices.

Parents and caregivers are invited to use our free educational resources to help their children develop a positive lifelong commitment towards textile recycling. The lesson plans and worksheets are located online (see link below). SMART first created these materials in 2012 in conjunction with The Education Center as a part of a marketing effort to teach elementary school students about textile reuse and recycling. In the first three years of its existence, the program reached over one million students in the United States. For more than a decade now, educators have used these materials to educate students and create awareness about textile recycling. Children can learn the various ways donated textiles can be used, for example:

  • Resold at charities’
  • Secondhand clothing stores
  • Sent to developing countries to provide affordable quality clothing
  • Turned into wiping cloths, which are used in a variety of industries and businesses (everything from manufacturers to repair shops, construction industries, stores, and maintenance and custodial departments)
  • Processed back into fibers and turned into paper, yarn, insulation, carpet padding, and other items

The SMART association’s statistics show that 81 pounds of textiles per person are thrown away annually. Meanwhile, roughly 95% of all used textiles, including old clothes, shoes, towels, sheets, curtains, stuffed animals, and more, can be recycled. Of course, the items need to be clean, dry, and odor-free – a process that reduces the need to create more landfill space reduces pollution created by incinerators and saves our environment from tons of harsh chemicals. “Reuse and recycling of clothing and textiles is the equivalent of removing 1.3 million cars from America’s highways and is equal to the impact of aluminum recycling,” explains SMART’s Executive Director, Jackie King. “It is also more impactful than plastic and glass recycling,”

To access SMART’s resources, or learn more about textile reuse and recycling, visit


Established in 1932, the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART) is an international nonprofit trade association that strengthens the economic opportunities of its diverse membership by promoting the interdependence of the for-profit textile recycling industry segments and providing a common forum for networking, education, and trade. SMART members use and convert recycled and secondary materials from used clothing, commercial laundries and non-woven, off spec material, new mills ends, and paper worldwide. SMART member companies create thousands of jobs worldwide, proving that you can make money by being socially responsible each day.