A company as large as clothing manufacturer Land's End, Dodgeville, Wis., is bound to have a lot of scraps. But there have not been a lot of options to get rid of the textile waste, says David Bureson, Land's End environmental health and safety supervisor.
"In the beginning, we were landfilling," Bureson says. "That's what got us to go after a way to eliminate the landfill [option]."
Bureson says Land's End had generated about 1,800 pounds of scrap in 1999 as of last November, but he added he was unable to give an exact amount of scrap generated each year.
To investigate the market potential for recycling textile waste, Land's End received a matching grant in 1998 from the Wisconsin Recycling Market Development Board, Milwaukee. Land's End hired EnvironMental Solutions, Dallas, and Madison Environmental Group, Madison, Wis., to conduct the study.
"Land's End [decided] the solution to the textile waste problem was to create more of a critical mass of other textile waste generators," says Brad Bradbury, principal of EnvironMental Solutions and manager of the study. "If we could find others out there, hopefully we could get some type of textile waste recycling started in the state."
Ninety-four Wisconsin businesses in the textile industry received a questionnaire about the type and quantity of textile scraps, the disposal method and the process, if any, by which the scraps were recycled. Madison Environmental Group's Sonya Newenhouse also phoned companies and conducted four site visits.
Although the response rate was 30 percent -17 questionnaires were returned and 12 phone interviews were conducted - the results were clear, Bradbury says.
"The overall textile market is so depressed right now that finding commercial textile vendors to take the waste at a cost equal to or less than a disposal cost of landfilling is very difficult, almost nonexistent," he says.
But Newenhouse attributed the lack of textile waste recycling in Wisconsin to the fact that the vendors are not strategically located.
"The issue is more that we need to work together to get a critical mass, to bring [textile companies and commercial recyclers] together," she says. "There are places that will take all the scrap, but the Wisconsin industry wasn't aware of them because they're not Midwest-based businesses."
To share that information, Land's End hosted a Wisconsin Textile Roundtable last summer to present the preliminary study results and establish a market for textile waste.
As a result of the 33-person discussion, textile waste generators have developed stronger relationships with nonprofit organizations, says Bureson.
"We get phone calls from a whole bunch of different people," he says, including Goodwill Industries, church groups, high schools and others. "We still have some issues with backing papers and small scraps of canvas, but you're always going to have bits and pieces that go to the landfill."
Land's End has created a partnership, says Jenna Kunde, executive director of WasteCap Wisconsin, Milwaukee, a non-profit organization that provides waste reduction and recycling assistance through business-to-business exchange. Land's End serves on the organization's board.
"Those kinds of local creative solutions come up when you bring people together and start brainstorming," she says.
Another roundtable, hosted by Land's End, is planned for fall, Bureson says.
The 29 businesses surveyed generate a total of approximately 122,385 pounds of textile scrap per year, not including what was donated to the nonprofit sector, the study states. Of the textile waste generated, 68 percent is landfilled, 28 percent is recycled and 4 percent is reused.
For its work on the study, Land's End was awarded the Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin (AROW) Waste Reduction Award last winter.
To see the study online, visit www.madisonenvironmental.com and click on "Projects."