California could establish first-of-its-kind textile recycling program

The Responsible Textile Recovery Act is set to be heard in the Legislature this summer

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At the start of the legislative cycle last year, a bill was introduced that would require clothing and textile companies to create and fund a statewide textile recycling program. Introduced by Senator Newman, the Responsible Textile Recovery Act (SB 707) will be heard in the State Assembly in the coming weeks. If approved, the bill would establish an unprecedented extended producer responsibility (EPR) program for textiles, the first in the United States and the strongest in the world. 

Fashion and textile waste is a mounting problem

The fashion industry contributes high carbon emissions, extensive plastic waste issues, and a pervasive spread of toxins to the global environment. About 10% of total global emissions come from the fashion industry – more than aviation and shipping combined. One dump truck of clothing and textile waste is sent to a landfill or incinerator every second. While decomposing, textiles emit methane gas, a key contributor to global warming.

Because so much clothing is made of plastic, as clothes break down, they become tiny fibers of plastic, known as plastic microfibers. More than half a million tons of plastic microfibers are dumped into the ocean each year, adding up to the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles. A NOAA study of sediments collected from 37 U.S. National Park beaches found that microfibers constituted 97% of beach debris. These microfibers can’t be taken out of the water. Instead, their toxins spread throughout the food chain and end up in our bodies.

California contributes to this massive waste issue, disposing of 1.2 million tons of textiles each year. Textile waste is the fifth-most common material in California’s landfills. Despite clothing companies’ responsibility for originating these harms, the costs of dealing with them have fallen on taxpayers. In 2021 alone, California taxpayers spent more than $70 million dollars disposing of used textiles.

The Responsible Textile Recovery Act will hold clothing companies accountable

The Responsible Textile Recovery Act (SB 707) would help fix this problem by requiring clothing companies to create and fund a program to collect, transport, sort, repair, and recycle textile waste. The program would use California’s network of thrift and secondhand businesses to help make this happen. Companies that do not contribute to this program will not be able to sell their clothes in the state.

Importantly, the bill shifts the costs of clothing waste management from the state to the companies. Now forced to pay for their waste, clothing companies will be more conscious of their output. This bill will help reduce the fast fashion overproduction cycle and ensure more clothing is recycled instead of landfilled.

Will you join us in calling for a clothing recycling program?

We need apparel companies to end overproduction and move towards a system where we re-wear, reuse, repair, and recycle our clothes. This landmark program will help advance this goal, and it will be voted on this summer. Tell the Legislature you support the Responsible Textile Recovery Act by signing our petition.

Tell state lawmakers: Reduce clothing waste

Tell state lawmakers: Reduce clothing waste

Clothing overproduction is poisoning our water, contributing to climate change, and generating enough waste to fill the Great Wall of China twice by 2050. California has an opportunity to be a leader in tackling our clothing waste problem. Tell your state Assemblymember to vote yes on the Responsible Textile Recovery Act.

Sign our petition

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Authors

Fiona Hines

Legislative Advocate, CALPIRG

Fiona supports CALPIRG’s advocacy efforts across the state, leading campaigns to reduce plastic waste and protect public health. Fiona lives in Los Angeles, where she enjoys spending time in the sunshine and seeing live music.