Everyone enjoys buying and wearing their clothes, but getting rid of them…not so much. Your closet probably contains at least a few outfits you’d like to part with, but perhaps you’ve been hanging on to them because you’re not sure where to recycle your old clothes.
The good news is that recycling old clothing is becoming more of a norm as people grow increasingly aware of their environmental impact, which means there are more options for everyone to consider.
Recycling clothes is a fantastic way to reduce waste and give new life to your garments. In fact, recycling clothing will help keep fabric out of landfills–which reportedly receive 11.3 million tons of textiles, most of which is discarded clothing. Sadly, only 13% of textiles in clothing and footwear are recycled, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
So, instead of tossing your old clothes into the trash, consider these seven ways to recycle them and contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle.
Sell Online or In-Person: If your clothing is in good condition, why not try to make a little extra cash? Online platforms like Poshmark, Mercari, eBay and countless others offer the chance to sell gently used clothing. Or go old school and head to a local consignment shop. Have bags of old baby clothes? You could try to sell them as lots, divvied up by size, on neighborhood sites like Nextdoor.
Donate to Charity: Don’t want to spend the time to list clothing for sale? We all know about Goodwill, but also consider donating your old clothing to charities or organizations that distribute clothing to those in need like homeless shelters, churches, or domestic violence centers. Make sure the clothing is in acceptable condition and clean before donating. Your donation can make a significant difference in someone else's life.
Join a Clothing Swap Party: Host a clothing swap party with friends, or with community members in a swap group. Encourage everyone to bring their gently used clothing items and exchange them with others. It's a fun way to refresh your wardrobe without spending money and helps in reusing garments that might otherwise go to waste.
Create Upcycled Fashion: Transform your old clothing into new and exciting items through upcycling. Turn a worn-out pair of jeans into trendy denim shorts. With slight modification old t-shirts can become halter or crop tops. Get creative and make tote bags, headbands, or pillow covers from fabric scraps.
Repurpose for Crafts: Use old clothing for various crafting and DIY projects. Cut fabric into strips and create braided rugs or use it to stuff pillows and cushions. Use already torn or stained textiles as cleaning rags. Get your kids involved! Use the bottom parts of child leggings to create doll clothes or doll “sleeping bags” that your child can then decorate and add bling. The possibilities are endless, from making quilts to creating decorative wall hangings.
Utilize Textile Recycling Centers: When you just can’t sell, donate or repurpose old clothing, research local city or state recycling centers for specific textiles. These facilities repurpose fabrics and fibers from the clothing to create new materials like insulation, carpet padding, or even new clothing items. If you can’t find a local textile recycling center try Earth911 for a searchable database of options. TerraCycle also offers recycling programs for specific brands such as Carter’s, which even provides rewards points for recycling its clothes.
Composting Natural Fibers: If your old clothing is made of natural fibers like 100% organic cotton or linen, consider composting them. But know that there are pretty strict standards for a fabric to be compostable —it must be a 100% natural fiber like cotton, hemp, wool, linen, silk, jute or cashmere, and you must pay attention to whether it may have synthetic dyes, a chemical finish on the fabric or have non-biodegradable trims, threads or embellishments.
Recycle Old Clothes–It’s Easier Than You Think
In conclusion, recycling old clothing is a sustainable and eco-friendly practice that helps reduce waste and contribute to a more circular economy. Get creative with your old garments, whether through upcycling, donating, composting, or participating in clothing swaps. Every effort counts towards a greener future.