Textiles and Apparel Recycling campaign seeks to improve textile sustainability on campus

The Textiles and Apparel Recycling campaign began last semester to research textile recycling and eventually establish an on-campus recycling center.

The campaign, which is funded through the Sustainability Office’s Green Fund grant program, currently collects clothing donations from students at residence halls. Wearable clothing goes to the Trash to Treasure pop-up thrift shop on campus, and nonwearable clothing goes to a local recycling company that converts the clothes to rags. Eventually, the campaign will use new technology to convert the donations to cloth that textiles and apparel students will use to make new clothing items. 

“The idea came about as we were seeing the problems in the (textile) industry,” campaign creator Jonathan Chen said. “We wanted to start it on our own campus and help the industry recycle textiles.”

Chen created the campaign in hopes of applying his research of regenerated cellulose fiber — which is more environmentally friendly than traditional fibers — and to study how it can be applied to different industries.


“We wanted to see the consumers’ perspectives and intentions for textile recycling, and eventually, we also want to use our technologies to make new rayon fibers,” said Chen, a textiles and apparel professor. “Textile and apparel waste is closely related to everybody as consumers, and the consequences are huge.”

Katherine Polston, project design and market researcher for the campaign, said the environmental impact of the apparel industry is known to be vast since the industry encompasses so many different areas.

“People are buying more, throwing away more,” said Polston, a textiles and apparel lecturer. “Clothes don’t last as long. It’s a combination of things. The sustainability of our industry is extremely broad, and it covers everything (because) we’re an interdisciplinary field, and we’re global.”

Carmen Mosnia, a student researcher with the campaign, said the donation of wearable clothes is indicative of a larger problem in the fashion industry.

“For me, the type of clothes that were being donated was very surprising,” Mosnia said, a textiles and apparel senior. “Some perfectly good, brand new clothing were being donated, and it shows how terrible the fast fashion industry is, honestly.” 

Becky Phung, a research assistant with the campaign, said advertising the campaign was important to increase the number of donations received.

“We’re not quite there yet as a society or even as a community to recognize that textiles (are) something to recycle,” Phung said, a textiles and apparel senior.