Recycling Program Creates a New Life for Textiles

A Pitt Logistics and Printing Services employee loads the wrapped textiles bins into a truck for delivery. When she heard about the University’s new textile recycling initiative, Kate McGlynn, associate director of administration and special projects at the Office of Philanthropic and Alumni Engagement, got excited.

Looking for a textile bin? You’ll find them in multiple places around campus!

- Alumni Hall—main lobby, Lytton Street entrance
- Benedum Hall—near dean’s office
- Biomedical Science Tower—lobby
Cathedral of Learning—ground floor (near elevators)
- Chevron Hall
- Craig Hall—main lobby
- Eureka Building—main lobby
- Hillman Library—ground floor lobby
- Litchfield Towers—lobby near ATM
- Mervis Hall—main lobby
- O’Hara Student Center
- Park Plaza—main lobby
- Petersen Events Center—mezzanine, second floor
- Public Safety Building—Forbes Avenue lobby
- Salk Hall
- Scaife Hall—fourth floor, Terrace Street entrance
- 7500 Thomas Boulevard—main lobby
- Posvar Hall—main lobby (near elevators)
- William Pitt Union—main lobby

An avid crafter who likes to sew quilts, McGlynn often finds herself with perfectly usable material that simply doesn’t fit in with her current projects.

“When I finish a quilt, I often have small bits and pieces leftover that I can't use but don't want to throw away. It's great to know I can recycle them and give them new life,” said McGlynn. “I already donate to and shop at thrift stores. This new level of recycling fits right in with my values and desire to live a more sustainable lifestyle.”

Textiles’ ‘next life’

“We’re looking to increase recycling of specialty materials—and textiles are an obvious next step. Ninety-five percent of all U.S. textiles can be reused or recycled, yet only 15% are,” said Aurora Sharrard, director of sustainability in the Office of Sustainability.

“While you should always think clothing reuse and charitable donation first, bring textiles you think are no longer usable to Pitt for recycling, and we’ll make sure they see their next life as industrial rags, insulation or yarn,” Sharrard said.

People can use the bins for unusable clothing and accessories, including coats, jewelry, shoes, gloves, linens, towels, pillows, and drapes or curtains. Mattress toppers, hazardous waste and single-stream recyclables (like paper, cardboard, metal, etc.) are not accepted.

The bins are placed in multiple areas around campus with toner or battery diversion points. These include the ground floor of the Cathedral of Learning near the elevators, in the Forbes Avenue lobby of the Public Safety Building, and in the O’Hara Student Center.

Before you recycle, thrift!

What to donate

Thriftsburgh’s website offers practical donation guidelines.

“Think about whether you or your partner, best friend or child would want to wear the item,” said Ninos. “If something is still in good shape and might be out of fashion, you can donate it through Thriftsburgh and we will make every effort to find the item a home in someone’s closet before donating it to be recycled into another product! If it is stained or torn or in a state of disrepair it likely can’t be recycled into something for someone to wear in which case it can be tossed into the recycling bin.”

The new textile bins around campus are intended for unusable items, but don’t make them your first stop for clothing or accessories that can still be worn.

Instead, stop by the University of Thriftsburgh, Pitt’s student-run thrift store in the O’Hara Student Center. A working model of sustainability that encourages students to think about how to reuse and recycle in new ways, Thriftsburgh promotes a culture of re-use.

Managed by the Student Office of Sustainability and organized by students, Thriftsburgh offers a place to find clothes with character; it accepts both cash and Panther Funds.

“The Thriftsburgh team is very excited to have this new option to divert textiles that have no other end use,” said Erika Ninos, sustainability coordinator for PittServes in the Office of Student Affairs. “We often receive donations to Thriftsburgh and during Clutter for a Cause (our end of semester donation drive) that are not usable for our community partners and being able to divert those donations to a sustainable and ethical end of life is great!”