It’s no secret that I’m all about shopping second hand to help lessen my environmental footprint (plus I just love the thrill of it!) But what about those clothes that don’t get worn any longer? There’s no need to throw them away. Today I want to share a bunch of different methods for recycling old clothes to show you so many ways to help keep textile waste to a minimum.
You can check out just how bad the textile industry is for our environment including how much waste we produce in my benefits of shopping second hand post. We throw away so much clothing that is perfectly good clothing with lots of life left in it. With a few easy changes, this doesn’t have to be the case. So if you’re trying to figure out how to recycle your old clothes, then try using one of these 12 methods.
12 Methods For Recycling Old Clothes
1. Use an online recycling program
With fordays.com, you purchase one of their take back bags and they give you a credit (based on the size bag you get, the credit is the same amount you paid for the bag) which can be used on a future purchase. They take your clothes and work with their recycling partners who resell what they can and recycle the rest into rags or other things like that.
You can join their swap program by purchasing one of their clothing items either using the credits in your account from sending in a take back bag or just with your own money. Then when you want to try something new you can send it back to them and swap it out for something new.
There is no time limit for how long you can keep an item before having to swap, you can also just choose to keep it! The items you send back in are sent to their recyclers to turn them into new fiber, yarn, and materials.
It’s a really fun way to recycle your old clothing and potentially find something new! Bluejeansgogreen.org offers free shipping of your denim that is 90% cotton or more, using either a Zappos or Amazon account. You just login using one of those accounts, print a shipping label, and send it via UPS. There are also numerous stores which participate in this program where you can drop off your denim, and many offer an incentive when you drop it off. You can look on their website for participating stores.
2. Check for local textile recycling programs
With another quick google search for “local clothing recycling programs” you should be able to find a program that either offers to pick up your items or that has local drop off spots where you can bring your unwanted clothing. You could also try searching for clothing recycling in your specific county (if you live in the US,) they may have a list of places there.
3. Look for clothing recycling bins
Many parking lots of grocery stores or strip malls will have clothing donation or recycling bins which you can drop your old clothes in. You can do a search for “clothing recycling bins near me” to find a list of places that have one to make it even easier.
4. Check retail stores for donation programs
Several retail stores have donation programs where you can send in your old clothes for some kind of incentive. H&M has a recycling program where you can drop off a bag of clothes you no longer want at your local store and they send them to the nearest recycling plant. For every bag you drop off, you’ll receive a discount card for 15% off your next in-store purchase.
Reformation, which is already an environmentally friendly brand built on sustainable practices, offers its customers an UPcycle kit with their purchase. You can send any items you no longer want that are from the brand back and it goes to thredUP , which is an online consignment store. They will turn all the goods you sent that are re-sellable, into a Reformation gift card you can use whenever you like.
Alternatively, if you haven’t purchased anything from Reformation but want to participate in the UPcycle program, you can visit thredUP or reformation’s website and print out your own kit and will be sent a free shipping label to stick on your box of clothing.
Madewell (one of my personal favorite brands,) participates in the Blue Jeans Go Green program I mentioned earlier. You can bring in your unwanted jeans to your local store to be turned into housing insulation for communities in need and in return you’ll get $20 off a new full price pair.
There are plenty of other stores that participate in various programs like this as well. Some other examples are The North Face, Levi’s, Zara, Patagonia, and Eileen Fisher.
5. Donate it to a thrift store
A more traditional route would be to drop your unwanted clothing at a local thrift store. For an added bonus, try to find one that recycles its unsold products versus throwing them away. Most big chain stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army participate in these types of recycling programs.
You can ask your local smaller stores what they do with their unsellable items. Donating to a thrift store that does a lot for the community is a great way to support their cause.
6. Donate to a church
Alternatively, you could donate to a church. Their proceeds typically help with church programs for the community and oftentimes they also donate items to homeless shelters as well. This is another great way to help support your local community.
7. Donate to a shelter or organization that helps those in need
You could also donate to a homeless or women’s shelter directly yourself. Or search for other local organizations that accept donations for those in need. These organizations are quite often in need of clothing and other textiles in good condition to be able to provide to the people they are helping.
They are non-profit organizations who typically rely on free donations to be able to either fund their mission or to be able to provide for those they are helping.
8. Have a garage sale
If you are looking to make a little money, having a garage sale is the perfect option. You could even do a multi-family garage sale with other family members or your neighbors to attract an even wider net of customers. Price things to sell so you aren’t stuck with a bunch of stuff left over and don’t forget to be open to negotiations!
9. Sell them to a consignment shop or online
Another way to make some money recycling clothes is to sell them to a consignment shop, whether it’s a local shop or a chain like Plato’s Closet. There is also thredUP which I mentioned earlier if you don’t have any consignment shops near you or prefer to just send them out from home rather than going to an actual store.
If you want to sell them yourself, doing so on an online marketplace such as Facebook Marketplace, Poshmark, Depop, or Mercari is a good place to start. You simply upload photos of your item, provide a description of what you’re selling, be sure to disclose the condition and it may also help to provide measurements of items, name your price, and then post it. This exposes your items to a much wider net of potential customers.
10. Host a clothing swap
This is where you invite a bunch of family, friends, and/or neighbors to bring all of their unwanted clothing, in good condition, and then you can shop other people’s items. It’s all free so you just bring your unwanted clothing to contribute as payment.
Anything left over can get donated to one of the places I talked about earlier! It’s a fun way to get rid of things you never reach for that are still in great shape, while also finding some new pieces you really love. And for free!
11. Upcycle it into something new
I actually have written a whole post on how to repurpose your clothes, so you can check that out for a ton of great ideas. To name a few you can turn jeans into shorts, a dress into a 2-piece set, try wearing things in new ways such as a button down top worn open as a layering piece, or have something that doesn’t fit quite right altered to fit or made into something entirely different.
12. Use old t-shirts as rags
If you have old shirts that are beyond donating or selling condition, turn them into rags! You can use them for cleaning, for dirtier projects such as outdoor projects, or for projects around the house such as staining.
Let’s help lessen our impact on the environment.
If you’re ready to clean out your closet and get rid of some unwanted items, then use one of these methods for recycling old clothes instead of just tossing them in the garbage. It will make you feel good knowing you are doing your part and also potentially helping someone in need, should you chose to go that route of donating. Let me know if you already use one of these methods when getting rid of old clothes! See you next time.