|Submission Date||Feb. 28, 2021|
University of Pittsburgh
IN-49: Innovation C
|0.50 / 0.50||
Director of Sustainability
Office of Sustainability
Name or title of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome that outlines how credit criteria are met and any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation:
In January 2020, the University of Pittsburgh began offering textile recycling at 19 locations on campus, expanding to 28 collection locations in 2021. For easy and regular pickup by the University’s Logistics team, each Pitt textile recycling location is co-located with mailing services and/or existing specialty recycling for batteries or toner.
Given that Pitt Sustainability prioritizes reuse, campus-wide emphasis has been on collecting unusable textiles (while meeting commodity acceptability guidelines for our vendor). Pitt community members are heavily encouraged to continue to donate items with wearable life in them to the University of Thriftsburgh (our on-campus thrift store) and local reuse and thrift stores.
Given that clothing and textiles make up approximately 6.3% of the U.S. waste stream, Pitt's textile recycling program represents a campus-wide opportunity to keep textiles in the circular economy. These efforts support several Pitt Sustainability Plan goals, including the widely referenced “Materials & Waste” goal to “Reduce landfill waste by 25% by 2030 from 2017 levels.” And, a lesser referenced 2018 Pitt Sustainability Plan goal to “Establish procedures, policies, practices, and educational tools to reduce the quantity and environmental impact of materials entering and exiting the University.” At Pitt, we have done this in a number of ways over time; textile recycling is just the most recent manifestation of these strategies.
Pitt’s Office of Sustainability began investigating how to divert unusable textiles from campus in 2018 – and in 2019, our explorations got serious. Given past national concerns about the textile recycling market, we wanted to find a well-established and ethical partnering organization, which ended up being Simple Recycling (based in Ohio). Simple Recycling partners with several other universities – and also provides curbside textile recycling services in several locations around the U.S.
In 2020, Pitt diverted 7,866 pounds of textiles from the landfill via the Textile Recycling program (including only 2 pickups in March and July 2020). In the meantime, textile recycling has continued to be available (and widely used) across campus throughout the pandemic.
While campus stakeholders have continued to use the program despite Covid-19, due to pandemic risk profiles for the University of Pittsburgh’s main campus, textile recycling drop-off by the public was discouraged. Despite that, during the Covid-19 global pandemic, the University’s textile recycling program has been the number one subject of emails from the public. In Fall 2020, Pitt re-opened its Thomas Boulevard location for public drop-offs again.
As a result of ongoing Pitt community and public drop-offs, a very large Pitt textile recycling collection is awaiting vendor pickup in early 2021.
PITT TEXTILE REUSE & RECYCLING HISTORY
Being able to offer textile recycling is the result of a number of University of Pittsburgh efforts to raise awareness about and divert usable textiles from the landfill. These date back to 2014-15, when Pitt began its textile reuse and recycling journey with its “Give a Thread” effort (designed to break a Guinness World Record during Orientation Week). In the end, Pitt collected 112,000 pieces of clothing (estimated at 36,960 pounds), which were distributed to: Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Dress for Success Pittsburgh, University Career Development and Placement Assistance Office, and the on-campus thrift store, University of Thriftsburgh. This initial donation helped the University of Thriftsburgh start in earnest, keeping textiles out of the landfill through reuse.
Recognizing the large numbers of textiles (including clothing) and other items left behind during move out, Pitt began “Clutter for a Cause” in 2016 with the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC). Clutter for a Cause collections happen during move in, move out, and summer sessions, keeping 43,700 pounds of clothing & small household items (though mostly clothing and textiles) out of the landfill from 2017 through 2019. Due to the Covid-19 global pandemic, 2020 Clutter for a Cause data is not complete.
In 2019, Pitt Athletics also diverted 1,111 pounds of textiles from the landfill through a partnership with Managers on a Mission.
Which of the following impact areas does the innovation most closely relate to? (select up to three):
Wellbeing & Work
A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise or a press release or publication featuring the innovation :
The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
Pitt's Textile Recycling Program: https://www.sustainable.pitt.edu/textile-recycling
Simple Recycling (Pitt's Textile Recycling partner): https://www.simplerecycling.com
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