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Phoenix Fibers reduces landfill waste by recycling returned clothing

Posted at 12:10 PM, Jan 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 14:10:22-05

CHANDLER, AZ — Inside of Phoenix Fibers, workers sort through piles of clothing. Many of the items in their Chandler warehouse were returned to retailers from across the country.

“Usually, the first quarter after Christmas we’ll start seeing an uptick in the online returns,” said Plant Manager Steve Johnson.

According to the National Retail Federation, about 13% of merchandise sold during the holiday season will be returned this year.

Supply chain experts say retailers often don’t want to pay to have those products cleaned or fixed so they go to a third party.

About five billion pounds of those products end up in a landfill every year, according to the company Optoro.

Johnson says since opening in 2012, they’ve recycled two million pounds of clothing every month.

The clothing is transformed into just about anything from insulation used inside of bathtubs, food boxes, and even punching bags.

“The poly-cotton mix will typically be going into the sporting goods industry,” Johnson said.

Johnson says the one limitation is that their machines aren’t quite equipped to handle heavily embellished materials, but he says they are hoping to update them in the future to handle that.

“We’re just the tip of the iceberg on that,” he said. “Giving people different avenues to responsibly get rid of their clothing.”

Anyone can drop off their unwanted clothing for free during business hours at their Chandler location.