# Two quadrillion lbs? (Recycling question)

Ok, I need some reassurance that I am not crazy. I was watching an episode of “Deal or No Deal” that I Tivoed. It was Green Week so they would have little factoids pop up throughout the show. One was “Collectively, Americans discard two quadrillion pounds of used clothing and textiles into the landfills each year.” I immediately called BS on that. Millions, definitely. Billions, probably. But quadrillions? The population of the US is about 301 million. So I guess on average, I as an American, throw about 6.6 million pounds of clothing away a year. I don’t think this is right. I tried googling 2 quadrillion pounds of clothing and found this: http://www.charityguide.org/volunteer/fifteen/used-clothing.htm But the sentence that proceeds the factoid stated we throw away 68 pounds of clothing (which I could see). But that would be 20 billion pounds, not 2 quadrillion. Right? Am I missing something vital here? Is the “textile” part of the statement the problem?

On top of what people discard individually, there would be textiles discarded in industry. However, that is not going to multiply the discards by a factor of 100,000: it’s still going to be in the order of tens of billions of pounds.

Yeah, that has to be bullcrap.

I did some quick calculations, and if we discarded 2 quadrillion pounds of clothing, that’s an average of nearly 19 pounds of clothing in every square foot of land in the US. Ummm…no. If you spread out every piece of textile OWNED in the US, not discarded, there’s no way you’d get 19 pounds per square foot of clothing.

By my calcs, 2 quadrillion pounds would be around 300,000 lbs for each human on the planet. It would be easy to show that the total weight of all textiles ever produced is a tiny fraction of 2 quadrillion pounds.

The habit of doing “reasonableness” checks on factoids is clearly falling out of favor.

I don’t know about people throwing away clothing in the US, but I always give our used clothing to our maid who in turn gives it to poor friends or her family if it fits and can be used that way. We never throw useable clothing away! When we lived in the Miami area, we always gave our used clothing to Goodwill. There are plenty of people out there who welcome receiving used clothing.