Wondering about recycling old clothes? You know the ones – too much love, too many stains, too many rips and tears, and too many mends…
I’ve been on a bit of a closet and house purge since we moved to Sacramento nearly two years ago! It seems never ending as I realize more and more things I can easily live without.
And my effort to follow the one-in-one-out closet method means the giveaway stack is always there, but what’s the best way to donate clothes and how do you recycle clothes that are too stained, too mended, or too personal to donate?
While most of us might donate them anyway OR put them in the trash, neither of those choices is actually good. Clothes don’t belong in a landfill! And I’ve read about how a great majority of the clothes donated can’t be sold, so they’re recycled or sent to the landfill.
If we can save some of those middle-people and all that work, then let’s do it!
Thankfully, it’s easy to recycle old clothing through a few companies working to collect old clothes – in any condition from any brand. The companies then separate the items into things that can be donated/sold, items to be fixed up, and items to be recycled.
Recycling Old Clothes
When should you donate/recycle clothing? I highly encourage you to wear and rewear clothing as much as possible. The most sustainable clothing are the ones already in your closet!
With this mentality, it’s worth it to invest in better made clothing (preferably made from eco-friendly materials and by fair-trade certified factories and individuals). And when you get a tear or rip – mend it yourself or take it to someone who can get you back in business! Each of these steps is a small step toward sustainable living!
But when it can’t be fixed much more or you accept that you’ll never be wearing it again, it’s time to move it along.
It’s great to donate clothes to local shelter, Goodwill, and Salvation Army locations, but make sure you’re only passing along clean, decent clothing. If you wouldn’t consider buying the item (no matter how inexpensive it is), then don’t waste nonprofit resources – recycle it yourself!
If you have undergarments to donate or recycle, read this article as undergarments are accepted by these companies.
Or give it back to an organization that can make the decision for you…
What happens to recycled clothes?
Most clothing fibers are too small to be remade into anything else. Oftentimes old clothes are shredded and turned into new products like insulation, carpet padding, etc.
Stores with Collection Bins for All Clothing in ANY condition:
There are a number of stores working to make the fashion world less wasteful. There is a lot of research out there about how polluting the fashion industry is – production to consumption to landfill!
More and more stores offer take back programs. The following stores accept items in any condition from any brand (make sure they’re clean). Some stores even offer a monetary incentive!
Columbia (accepts clothing and shoes)
Levi’s Stores + Outlets (20% off single item when you recycle there)
The North Face Stores + Outlets ($10 off next purchase of $100 at The North Face)
Mailing in Clothes for Recycling
If you’d prefer to mail in your clothes, there are absolutely options for you (and I’m using two of them right now).
Many major companies have partnered with Give Back Box, encouraging customers to use the shipping boxes and bags with their new items to send back their old items (helps that one-in-one-out method)!
I ordered adorable socks for our little guy from Wear Pact and got an email offered a free shipping label to send clothes back in. The shipping label covers 6 pounds of clothes, which is quite a bit!
You can always pay the $15 for a shipping label as well – an inexpensive way to make sure clothes aren’t going to the landfill!
The closed loop apparel brand For Days also sells give back bags. They come in three sizes small ($6), medium ($12), and large ($20). The size pictured here is the large and I’m having a hard time filling it up! The cost is so minimal and the result is oh so great!
How to Recycle Shirts
Specifically for old t shirts, Marine Layer has a free program to recycle shirts. Get details about their free mail-in and drop programs on their ReSpun website.
So what clothes will you donate and recycle?!
Other Sustainable Recycling information…
Here’s one specifically on how to recycle/donate undies & bras (don’t forget these tips on washing your bras & undies). Have shoes to donate, upcycle, or recycle? Check out these options for where to recycle your shoes.
Sustainable Living Basics
How to Reuse Containers (includes how to clean them out, clean off the labels, and label them anew)
Eco-Friendly Book Reading (not just e-books!)