10 easy ways to recycle clothing and fight fast fashion waste
Here’s our guide to recycling clothing with 10 useful tips and loads of recycling programs to use when you donate your clothing. Don’t forget to share this with your friends.
Below, you’ll find 10 ways to keep your clothing out of the garbage bin, or “diverting textile waste.”
Technically, recycling means to use the raw material of a product to create another product, but we’re keeping the definition broad for this article.
Check out these clothing waste stats, which show the enormous scale of clothing and textile waste globally:
9 million tons of clothing was sent to the landfill and just 1.7 million tons of clothing was recycled in 2018 in the US
- 85% of clothing ends up in the landfill even though 95% can be recycled
- The fashion industry produces 100 billion articles of clothing each year on a 7 billion person planet
- The average person only wears 20 percent of the clothes in their closet
How to recycle clothing - 10 easy ways
1. Drop off your clothing directly to a clothing recycler
There are a lot of programs for dropping off clothing to a bin to be recycled. Here are a few worth checking out:
American Textile Recycling Service - this site will help you find a nearby drop off location
Terracycle Clothing and Fabric Recycling Box (you have to pay for this, but it’s one of the best recycling companies around)
The Bra Recyclers - drop off or mail in
Nike Reuse-a-Shoe program - drop off shoes from any brand
Souls4Soles - drop off or mail in shoes
- Green Tree Recycling - NYC-based farmer’s market textile drop off
2. Upcycle your clothing
Upcycling your clothing means turning it into something with greater value. This option is especially useful for people who enjoy sewing or crafting. The nice thing about upcycling clothing, is you can personalize clothing so you love it even more than the original.
Upcycled clothing doesn’t just have to become another garment. It can also become a quilt, a lampshade or a decorative wall hanging. Here are some ideas for upcycling clothing.
3. Sell your clothing
Online pre-loved clothing sales have become a big business. One of the things driving this trend is the rise in online used clothing platforms like Depop. But you don’t even have to sell on sites like Depop if you have a large enough following on social media. Arguably, Instagram is all you need.
Another way to sell your clothing is to check with retail outlet consignment stores like Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads Trading, but these have the downside of heavy brand and clothing curation and marked-down buy-back price points.
4. Gift your clothing to a friend
Make sure to explain why it’s the perfect gift for them. Maybe it’s attached to a certain memory you had with the gift-getter or maybe it’s a garment in their favorite color. Finding the personal connection in the reason for giving your gift is all it takes to normalize clothing reuse.
5. Return your clothing to a brand buy back program
Loads of brands have clothing buy back programs these days and this is expected to rise. Here are a few of the most popular brands offering discounts on purchases with your donations:
Patagonia Worn Wear- this brand’s clothing only
- North Face Renewed - donate from any brand
- Levi’s - donate denim from any brand
- Madewell - donate jeans from this brand
- Eileen Fisher - this brand’s clothing only
- H&M - drop off clothing from any brand
6. Donate your clothing
Donation schemes all operate differently. Whether you’re dropping off at your local Goodwill or Salvation Army, be sure to call first to get information on how their drop-offs work. To find a place to donate anywhere in the US, search on the Donation Town site.
7. Swap your clothing with friends
Hosting a clothing swap with friends is a fun, creative way to jumpstart your spring wardrobe.
8. Repair or mend your worn out clothing
Go to your local auntie, tailor, seamstress or cobbler or search for mending tips online. You can do this! Repairing improves holes, tears, worn soles, broken zippers, etc.
9. Compost your natural fiber clothing
As long as your clothing has all of its zippers and buttons removed and it’s made of 100% natural fibers like cotton, hemp, linen or wool, you can simply shred up your clothing and put it in the compost to decompose.
10. Reverse engineer your garment and use it for scrap fabric and “parts”
Get creative and use the parts and pieces of your garments in unique ways. Scrap fabric can become rags, bag ties, food wraps or jar seals (just add a rubberband), while zippers and other parts can be repurposed. Stretch your imagination to find as many uses as possible for a single item.
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