The Life Cycle of a T-Shirt

Megan Allen, period 5

MACHINES: Planet Money Makes A T-Shirt (Part II)

The Beginning- Raw Materials

The t-shirt was invented in the 1920s and has quickly become a staple in the fashion industry, offering an effortless and expressive mode of clothing. Most t-shirts are made of 100% cotton, polyester, or a cotton-poly blend. The more expensive and high end t-shirts are constructed from light-weight jersey fabrics. Cotton fabrics obviously come from chemically treated cotton fibers, but Polyester, however, is formed from a combination of coal, air, water, and petroleum.

The Middle- Daily Wear and Use

People wear t-shirts to support causes, exercise, lounge around in, or any other daily activity.The average t-shirt is used for about 3-5 years. This number can be shorter/longer depending on factors such as personal growth, stains, wear/tear, and changing tastes.

The End- Where do they go?

The average American throws away about 70 pounds of clothes a year. Most of the clothes end up in landfills where it takes months-even years- for them to biodegrade. Cotton takes 1-5 months to decompose, thread 3-4 months, Nylon 30-40 years.

A New Beginning- Reuse and Repurpose

Just because you've outgrown an item of clothing or have changed your personal style, doesn't mean others won't appreciate it. Instead of throwing away old t-shirts, you can pass them to siblings or friends through hand-me-downs or donate them to clothing collection centers. Additionally, if a t-shirt has torn or become too stained for further use, you can use it as a reusable washrag or duster.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Three R's

Reducing lowers the amount of resources we use and lessens our environmental impact. Reusing allows us to use what has already been extracted from the environment in a way that prevents the need for additional environmental impact. Recycling takes what can no longer be used and turns it into raw materials that can be repurposed. All three R's impact the globe by lowering the environmental impact and the amount of resources that we consume.
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Works Cited

"How Products Are Made." How T-shirt Is Made. N.p., 2015. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. http://www.madehow.com/Volume-2/T-Shirt.html.


Delaney, Paul. "HOW LONG IT TAKES FOR SOME EVERYDAY ITEMS TO DECOMPOSE." Down 2 Earth Materials. Down 2 Earth Materials, 2015. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <http://www.down2earthmaterials.ie/decompose/>.


Wallander, Mattias. "T-Shirt Blues: The Environmental Impact of a T-Shirt." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mattias-wallander/t-shirt-environment_b_1643892.html>.