cotton field in united states

Waste & Creating a Circular Economy

At Wag Alley, we aim to reduce our environmental impact as much as possible through a circular economy. You might ask why our products are 100% Plastic-Free? Why are they 100% Cotton? Well, keep reading to find out!

Waste in the U.S.

Municipal solid waste production in the United States is a significant environmental and social challenge. With a population of over 330 million people and a highly consumer-oriented society, the U.S. generates a substantial amount of waste on a daily basis. Municipal solid waste (MSW) refers to the everyday discarded items from households, businesses, institutions, and industries that are collected and managed by local municipalities.

In recent years, the U.S. has been producing an alarming amount of MSW. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2018 alone, the country generated approximately 292 million tons of MSW, equivalent to about 4.9 pounds per person per day. This puts the U.S. among the top waste-producing nations globally. The composition of MSW varies, but it typically includes paper, plastics, metals, glass, textiles, food waste, and other organic materials. Textile waste alone was approx 17 million tons. [1]

Thats a lot of waste people!!

In addition, organic waste in landfills decomposes anaerobically creating significant methane emissions. Ideally, we can divert organic waste from the landfill as much as possible and work on a solution to solving our solid waste problem. 


1. Create a circular economy. What is a circular economy?

A circular economy is an economic model that aims to maximize resource efficiency and minimize waste by promoting the reuse, recycling, and regeneration of materials and products. It is a departure from the traditional linear economy, which follows a "take-make-dispose" approach, resulting in the depletion of resources and the accumulation of waste. In a circular economy, the goal is to keep products and materials in use for as long as possible, extracting their maximum value and minimizing environmental impact.

At Wag Alley, we want to keep our products in use as long as possible. Through our Wag Alley Threads Program, we aim to repair garments and give them a second life.

In addition, we reduce textile waste from our cutting floor by turning the "scraps" and extra yardage into Puzzle Toys. This gives our fabric a new life while also giving your pup an earth-friendly toy to play with!

2. Use resources that are circular: Cotton

Cotton is a natural fiber that is inherently circular (grown from sunlight, water and earth) that will biodegrade back into the soil. Composting studies from 2010 show cotton fabrics are compostable in industrial compost facilities. [2] Not only is cotton a natural fiber, it is known for its versatility in the textile industry. On one hand cotton is known for its softness, comfort, and breathability. On the other hand, cotton is a durable and strong fiber, ensuring that cotton-based textiles withstand regular wear and tear. This durability allows for longer-lasting clothing and reduces the frequency of replacement, promoting sustainability and reducing the environmental impact of textile production.

We attended a webinar from Cotton Inc about cotton composting and they shared a recent study from Cornell University on the biodegradability of cotton textiles. See below images of a pair of 100% Cotton jeans in industrial compost. After 4 months (image on far right), the only things left are the polyester pocketing, labels, and thread. [3]

They also tested a jean made from a Cotton blend (probably Cotton/Elastane) and see images below. After 5 months, the cotton biodegraded but the elastane remained. [3]

You can find the entire presentation on Cotton Composting for a Circular Textile Economy here:


Thank you for learning with us today and we hope you find this article interesting. Feel free to share with friends!



2. Li L, Frey M, Browning KJ. Biodegradability Study on Cotton and Polyester Fabrics. Journal of Engineered Fibers and Fabrics. 2010;5(4). doi:10.1177/155892501000500406

3. Images courtesy of Cotton Incorporated research at Cornell University

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