Do you wear clothing until it’s threadbare and falling apart? Or, are you the type of person who wears an outfit until it is out of style? There’s nothing wrong with being fashionable, but it can lead to a lot of trash if you don’t recycle clothing properly. That’s where the problem lies. Few districts are set up to recycle materials. How do you change fashions each season without increasing the waste going to landfills?
The EPA found that more than 11 million tons of textiles ended up in landfills in 2017. Sheets, towels, footwear, and carpeting is making its way to landfills where it takes a long time to break down. Stained items don’t have to go in the trash. There are better ways to dispose of unwanted fashions, yet people don’t always know about them.
Textile recycling is a growing industry. While you can donate clothing for others to wear, if the clothing is ripped, stained, or damaged in some way, it won’t get resold. With textile recycling, clothing that can’t be worn is shredded. The fibers are then used in new ways. It may be turned into fibers used to make new cushions, insulation products, or materials for soaking up oil or heating fuel spills.
Where Can You Donate Unwanted Clothing, Shoes, and Accessories?
People usually know that they can bring their clothing to charitable organizations. Those items get priced and resold to others. The money earned helps support charitable groups. Another option is a used clothing store. Many of these stores work on consignment, meaning when the item sells you get a small percentage. Others buy your clothes from you for a small amount and make the rest of the profit by charging consumers more than they paid you.
Meeting the hours that those places are open can be a problem. That’s why some areas have yellow drop-off bins where clothing donations go to people in need. Those bins are handy if you work third shift and are often sleeping when most used clothing stores and charities are open.
Donated items usually have to be in good shape with working zippers, no holes, and no large, obvious stains. If they’re threadbare, badly torn, or damaged, the organization may not take them. Before you put those items in the trash, try something else.
Here is a guide to some of the places that have locations across the U.S. where you can drop off clothing, shoes, and accessories.
- American Red Cross/GreenDrop – You need to call the American Red Cross to arrange for a pick-up by GreenDrop. Clothing has to be in good condition and is picked up at your home in participating areas. GreenDrop has locations in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington DC.
- American Textile Recycling Services – If there’s a bin near you, recycling clothing and shoes is easy with ATRS’s drop-off recycling program. Call 1-866-900-9308 to find the nearest bin or discuss how to donate if there isn’t a bin near you.
- Blue Jeans Go Green – Get rid of old jeans through a program called BlueJeansGoGreen.org. Shipping is free through Zappos for Good. The jeans you recycle are broken down into cotton fibers that are used for insulation. Check the tag to make sure the jeans are 90% cotton or higher.
- Clothes the Loop – Donate your used clothing (any condition) and outdoor apparel to The North Face. Items are donated to those in need or recycled properly. In return, you get a coupon for your next The North Face purchase. The goal is to keep clothing, whether it’s ripped or not, from reaching the landfill. Find a drop-off bin at stores across the U.S. H&M has a similar drop-off program in place.
- Dress for Success – Business attire that’s in good condition can be donated to Dress for Success where it ends up with women who are trying to change their lives by entering the working world. Items like suits, dresses, blazers, dress pants, and skirts have to be clean either by laundering or dry cleaning them before you donate them. Most states in the U.S. have an office you can contact to arrange a donation. Check out the list at DressforSuccess.org.
- Goodwill – Goodwill has stores in most states. To drop off clothing and accessories, drive up to the drop-off point, let the worker know what’s in the bag, and wait for your donation receipt. Items are resold in the stores and money goes to help several charities and provide job training, too.
- Room to Grow – Room to Grow is specifically designed to take donations of baby clothes and accessories that are donated to low-income families. The items must be in good condition and picked up by drivers (note that you pay the driver’s fee) in New York City or mailed to offices in Boston, Massachusetts, or NYC.
- The Salvation Army – You can drop off clothing and accessories at a local drop-off center or call The Salvation Army to arrange pick-up at your home or business. Items usually are sold in their local stores and the proceeds go to help people in need whether they’re living in poverty or were in a natural disaster.
- Soles4Souls – If you have gently used shoes that no longer fit or proved uncomfortable, Soles4Souls is a good charity to turn to. Shoes are donated to those in need around the world. You can box up all of your children’s, men’s, and women’s footwear and drop them off at the nearest location as found on Soles4Souls.org. The easier way is to send through Zappos. You can ship up to 50 pounds of shoes using free shipping services through Zappos.com/e/soles-4-souls.
You Can Sell Them Yourself
You can always make a little money while selling items yourself. Sites like ThredUp offer a way to sell used clothing and accessories in the online thrift store. If you opt to sell through ThredUp, you ship your clothing, shoes, and accessories to them. They sell them and give you online credit or cash for the sale. In general, ThredUp states they only accept about 40% of what a person sells to them. If you want items returned to you, that’s one option. Otherwise, they partner with a textile recycling firm to recycle your other items.
You can also sell items through places like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or garage sales. It is more time consuming to sell things on your own, but it does give you the chance to earn some money.
Repurposing Is Another Way to Reuse Fabrics
Used clothing could become something else. Have you considered repurposing it? Quilters may be able to use unwanted clothing to create fabric squares for handmade quilts. Ask the local hospital if they have quilters who make and donate quilts to ICU patients or the neonatal units. It reduces the cost of fabric for these groups.
You could use an older jacket to make throw pillows. Reupholster chair cushions with flannel shirts. Make curtains from an old prom dress. Use clothing to make face masks, pincushions, tote bags, and more. Rather than buy paper towels, use old t-shirts and tank tops as rags for cleaning counters, windows, etc. You can also use them as oil rags if you maintain your vehicles at home.
If you still need help finding the best ways to recycle or donate your used clothes, shoes, and accessories, Recycle Nation has an easy-to-use locator. Fill in your ZIP, the type of item you want to recycle, and click “Search.” A list of drop-off locations appears. You can also find organizations that pick-up donations just as easily.