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How and where to recycle old clothes, and why it is important?
There are several ways you can upcycle and recycle old clothing!
In this article, I will share with you plenty of easily accessible textile recycling locations, plus other ideas on what to do with your old clothes.
Keep reading to find out:
- How to recycle your old clothes? (Resell, Swap, Donate, Upcycle, Compost)
- Where to recycle old clothes: 20 textile recycling drop-off locations
- Sum up
How to recycle your old clothes?
Declutter your wardrobe by following my step-by-step guide. Then, separate all the items you want to get rid of, into three categories:
- Perfect condition
- Good condition
- Bad condition
For the first two categories, you can do the following:
There are plenty of online shops where you can resell clothes you don’t wear.
This option is more time-consuming since you have to spend some time to make profiles to the platforms below, take pictures, then ship the items, etc.
However, it is a great choice, since you will also return some of your spendings. A few great online stores to sell your old clothing include:
I organized a “Clothing swap” event once (picture above), and it was SO fun. Many girls came with a bunch of clothes they didn’t wear anymore.
We placed all the clothes around and started checking and trying some items. I got a pair of white jeans.
The cool thing is that you are getting rid of many things you don’t need, and you can also get something ”new” for free! 😀
When we all got what we liked, we collected the rest. Then, we donated the rest to the local second-hand store.
If you are curious about how to make it, follow my guide on organizing a Clothing swap.
Collect all the items that are wearable and in good condition and give them to the local charity/second-hand store.
And remember – don’t send unwearable clothes. The whole point is to give items that will find a new home.
Nobody wants washed-out t-shirts with wholes or ripped jeans. If you give such items, the organizations can’t do much with them but send them to the landfill.
Some options for donation are:
- Go Green Drop (US)
- Good Will (US)
- Planet Aid (US) – Send clean men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing, shoes, bedding, towels, and underwear. Used clothing is redistributed to those in need in other countries across the globe.
- Donation Town (US) – They will pick your donation for free! Just schedule the pick-up.
- Creative Reuse (California) – Make an appointment and get a free pick-up.
- American Textile Recycling Service (US) – They collect, sort, donate and resell gently used, unwanted clothing and shoes.
- Soles 4 Souls (US) – donate a few pairs of shoes you no longer want and provide opportunities for others in need.
- One Warm Coat (US) – provides a free, warm coat to any person in need.
When the clothing is in poor condition and you can’t donate, swap, or sell, you can:
You can repurpose or upcycle old clothes that you don’t wear and are in bad condition.
For example, you can create reusable cloth towels from old t-shirts, tie-dye a stained shirt, or DIY a beautiful shirt from a male shirt (reference image above).
These are just a few ideas; to get more inspiration, check out my article with 17 fantastic ideas of what to do with clothes that you cannot donate.
Clothing that is made from natural fibers such as cotton, wool, silk, etc., can be composted.
The only thing that you have to do is to make sure that it is not blended with synthetic fibers, such as polyester.
Then, you should remove things such as buttons, labels, or zippers. Then, shred the rest finely before adding it to your compost pile.
Related post: Apartment Composting: 7 Step-by-step guides
Where to recycle old clothes: 20 textile recycling drop-off locations worldwide
You can always send your old clothes for recycling. There are plenty of organizations and many stores that recycle clothes:
1. Green City Recycler (US)
A textile recycling company that stops items such as used clothing, shoes, and other household things from being dumped in the landfill.
2. Terracycle (US)
You can purchase a “zero waste” box, fill it up and send it back with stuff you don’t want.
Terracycle recycles/breaks down the items and sells the various raw components to other vendors for reuse.
They offer various categories, including clothing and fabrics.
3. Grow NYC (US)
They aim to recover as much usable clothing as possible to deliver it to second-hand markets.
Items unsuitable for reuse will go to recycling markets to be used as wiping rags or shredded for low-grade fiber products such as insulation.
4. Blue Jeans Go Green (US)
To donate your jeans, box up old items and send them to the address listed on their website. They will turn your old jeans into the insulation.
The program also donates a specific amount of insulation to low-income communities yearly.
5. Smartasn (US)
They use and convert recycled and secondary materials from used clothing and other materials from around the world
6. Fabscrap (New York)
A charitable organization that accepts pre-consumer fabric and textiles and gives them away to students, artists, local designers, and crafters for reuse.
7. Bra Recycling (US)
Recycle, reuse or repurpose bras while providing substantial social benefits to women and girls in need.
8. Knickey – Underwear recycling (US)
Undies are sorted by fiber; afterward, they are broken down and made into new fiber.
Then, the recycled fibers are turned into insulation, rug pads, and rags.
Send washed bras and panties that you don’t use anymore from any brand.
10. Patagonia (US)
Drop off old Patagonia items for store credit.
11. USAgain (US)
USAgain has drop-off boxes nationwide for old clothing. Some of the clothes are resold, and others – are recycled/upcycled.
12. Levi’s (worldwide)
Go to your local Levi’s store and drop your no-longer-wanted clothing or shoes (any brand) in the collection boxes.
13. H&M (worldwide)
Go to the closest H&M and drop off clothes/textiles from any brand, in any condition.
14. The North Side (worldwide)
Same as the previous, just bring your clothes of shoes and give them to the employees. You will get $10 off from your next purchase!
15. Nike Move To Zero (worldwide)
They accept any brand of athletic sneakers (excluding sandals, dress shoes, boots, or shoes with metal).
16. Recycle Now (UK)
You can use the Recycling Locator widget to find the closest recycling center.
All high-quality products donated to their charity shops and donation centers are offered for sale in-store. Any clothing that isn’t good for sale is sold for reuse overseas.
18. Return It (Canada)
Return it accepts clothing, footwear, household textiles, bags, accessories, etc.
Textiles collected through the program are distributed to reuse by various organizations and companies.
19. Boer Group (Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium)
They handle the textile collection for municipalities, schools, foundations, and other (retail) companies.
20. Monki (Europe, UK)
You can also bring and hand over at the check out clothes and textile in any Monki store.
Why is recycling clothes important?
Unfortunately, consumerism and materialism rapidly increased over the years.
New fast fashion brands, designs, and clothing are popping out daily to meet the demand for the newest trends.
The increased consumption means more waste, which has a huge, negative impact on our environment. Here are some disturbing facts and issues:
- Global clothing production has doubled in the past 15 years – On average, the apparel is being worn much less and thrown away quicker than ever before.
- Almost 60% of all clothing produced is disposed of within a year of production, ending in a landfill – It is estimated that only 1% of our clothing is recycled into new garments because of its complexity. Around 13% is recycled for use in other areas.
- The United States consumes more clothing and textiles than any other nation in the world – About 85 % of the apparel Americans consume, nearly 3.8 billion pounds yearly, is sent to landfills as solid waste.
- Landfill gas, a natural byproduct of the decomposition of organic material in landfills, is released in the atmosphere – in the US, landfills are the third-largest source of methane emissions – a greenhouse gas that is 28 times more efficient than carbon dioxide at trapping heat.
Are all clothes recyclable?
Yes. You can recycle almost anything.
From old clothes & shoes to belts, purses, caps & hats, backpacks, etc.
Recycling old clothes is extremely beneficial since:
- It can reduce a lot of waste that is usually going to the landfills
- It can benefit charities and others by adding value to waste products
- It can reduce the carbon footprint
- It provides a financial incentive and employment around the world
Can you throw clothes in the trash?
It is not recommendable to do that. If you do it, there is a high chance that they will end up in a landfill.
It is always better to first try to see if you can donate, resell or swap your clothes.
Next, you can recycle in the nearest textile center the clothing and shoes that are in poor condition.
Any kind of textile, even the one that is natural and biodegradable, will have a hard time degrading due to the landfill conditions – lack of sunlight and oxygen.
Instead of making the solid waste stream grow in our landfills, we should try to reuse, repurpose or recycle our clothes.
Find more about why you should never throw clothes in the trash here.
Getting rid of old clothes is easy, but it is important to reconsider your buying patterns.
It is very important to be mindful when you decide to go shopping.
A few great tips that you can consider are:
Think before you buy.
Always ask yourself – “Do I really need this?”, “Do I have something similar at home already?” “Can I combine this piece of clothing with other items I have?”. Depending on the answers, you can easily decide if you truly need it.
Consider second-hand stores.
You will be surprised how many cool products you can find in a second-hand store.
Furthermore, it is so much more sustainable. Check my list with plenty of amazing online second-hand stores worldwide.
Quality over quantity.
Oftentimes, good clothes are a bit more expensive, but if you have the chance, always support local & sustainable brands that use ethical, high-quality materials.
You can find my list of truly affordable sustainable brands here.
Did I miss clothing recycling places and locations you would like to see here?
Let me know in the comments below. 🙂