Today’s Solutions: April 18, 2024

While consumer awareness about the urgency of transitioning the textile industry towards circularity is growing, socks remain one of the most frequently discarded pieces of apparel. A new initiative from clothing company Smartwool wants to change that by encouraging you to donate your old socks — no matter the brand — so they can turn them into dog beds.

According to the EPA, more than 11 million tons of textile waste were landfilled in the US in 2018 alone, and another 3.2 million tons were incinerated. Although socks don’t make up the bulk of that waste, a lot of consumers throw away their old socks because they don’t know what else to do with them.

“A lot of organizations won’t take donated used socks, so oftentimes consumers just don’t know what to do,” says Alicia Chin, head of sustainability at Smartwool. Many respondents who took the survey said that they throw out one to three pairs of socks a year, so the company started looking for a solution.

To implement its new program, the apparel company partnered with Material Return, a North Carolina-based company that turns textile waste into new products. Smartwool will now run a sock take-back program between April 21 and May 2, with collection bins at participating stores nationwide. People also have the option to go to the Smartwool site to request prepaid postage and mail in their used socks.

All socks are welcome for collection as long as they are cleaned in advance. Smartwool will then create dog beds from the socks which will be a limited edition product and will be available to purchase from their stores later this year.

Eventually, the company wants to expand its take-back program to all products, not just socks. The initiative is part of Smartwool’s broader goal of making all of its products circular by 2030.

“In terms of where we’re going, dog beds—that’s just the beginning,” says Chin. “Ultimately, our goal here is to work with Material Return to actually take those stocks, turn them back into yarn, and then be able to create new products out of it. The sky’s the limit from where we go from there.”

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