An academic program developed by the Maryland-based Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART) is yielding positive results among the elementary school teachers who used its lesson plans focused on the benefits of recycling used clothing.
In addition to lesson plans, this year’s educational outreach included the Recycling Rangers program to encourage schools to identify “ambassadors” who would promote recycling efforts in their schools. The recycling programs include coordinating used-clothing collection drives with SMART member companies.
A year-end survey of teachers shows 84 percent of teachers feel that since becoming a Recycling Ranger, their students are now familiar with the concept of textile recycling.
The goal of the program is to heighten student, teacher and family awareness of clothing and textile recycling by engaging more than 2,500 teachers in grades K–5 in its Recycling Rangers program.
During the 2013-2014 academic year, a total of 1,565 teachers registered for the program, and 1,485 schools now have a Recycling Ranger ambassador. More than 550,000 students were reached by the program’s lesson plans and take-home activities in the 2013-2014 school year. The two-year total of 899,975 students reached by the classroom activities puts SMART well within reach of its goal to engage more than 1 million students within the first three years of its elementary student educational project.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) most recent report on municipal solid waste, 20.44 billion pounds of clothing and footwear was discarded in 2012. An additional 2.58 billion pounds of towels, sheets and pillowcases were also thrown away. The 2012 EPA report indicates only 14.4 percent of clothing and footwear products were recovered (recycled) and only 17.8 percent of towels, sheets and pillowcases were recovered. Of the clothing, footwear, towels, sheets and pillowcases that were thrown away, SMART estimates 95 percent of those items could have been reused or recycled.
SMART’s goal is to educate the public about the benefits of recycling all used clothing and household textiles.