SPECIAL REPORT: Dangers of used clothing in local landfills

CENTRAL COAST, Calif. - Trendy fashions are easy to come by these days and can be pretty inexpensive to bring to our closets. 

But once the trend is over and the clothes are a little worn, they still have an impact. Especially if they end up in local landfills.

"[As] people get new clothes they tend to throw away old ones," said Lisa Fusco, Scale House supervisor at the Buena Vista Landfill in Santa Cruz County.

Right now, a limited amount of space is left at the landfill for garbage in Santa Cruz County before it becomes a transfer station. Though public works staff says there's still a few good years left they're still hoping to make the best use of space.

"There'll probably be new technologies to deal with garbage," Fusco said, "But until then, we need to do what we can to save as much space here as possible."

Some Central Coast businesses and non-profits are working to do their part to help.

One of the places many people take old clothes is Goodwill, something they welcome.

"In conjunction with creating jobs and efficient jobs and good jobs, we want to keep our environment clean," said Cristina Hernandez, with Goodwill Central Coast, "Without our salvage operation, we wouldn't be able to do that."

Goodwill Central Coast says they get a huge amount of unwanted clothes but a large portion of them can't be resold.

After a few days on the floor of the outlet store, the textiles get salvaged.

Goodwill's bailer, processing about 7500 pounds of textiles a week. Goodwill partners with salvaging organizations that then take those clothes away.

"It's being repurposed for insulation or repurposed in other ways, being sold at markets overseas," Hernandez said.

But it's not just the second hand market working to keep old clothes out of landfills. One of the places you may have bought the clothes in the first place says they've worked to keep them out of landfills for years and are helping you do it.

"[You can] bring them into H&M, drop them off in our bins and you get a coupon to use on your next purchase," H&M spokesperson Emily Scarlett said.

And it's not just clothes purchased from H&M that they're willing to take.

"It can either be clothing or home textiles," Scarlett said, "It can be from any brand in any condition."

Though Goodwill and H&M may be two different organizations with different goals, the commitment to the environment is similar and they hope to get Central Coast residents on board.

"We enjoy a very pretty community," said Hernandez, with Goodwill, "A beautiful community and we want to keep it that way."

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