How to Recycle Clothing And Avoid Sending Items To The Landfill
7 Minute Read
It’s almost spring, which means you’re probably about to fall into a wicked Marie Kondo tail spin. And you’re ready to cleanse, purge and de-clutter. But before you start your tossing spree, I wanna make sure you know how to pare down your closet (and simplify your life!) without sending 30 garbage bags of stuff to the landfill. Knowing how to recycle clothing, where you can donate it, and how you can make extra cash while doing it are just a few ways to simplify in the most sustainable way.
You know, one thing I never liked about the Marie Kondo show on Netflix is that it showed people simplifying their lives and getting rid of a ton of stuff, but it never talked about responsible and sustainable ways to “dispose” of everything. So, I wanna make sure you know just how many options and resources are available when it’s time to recycle your clothing.
But first, a gut-wrenching statistic:
A UK study of 2000 women showed that most items of clothing are worn less than 7 times. And some people I personally interviewed only wear specialty items like dresses once!!
It blows my mind that so many people are buying clothes that they barely wear. So if you’re getting rid of your clothing, try to be super mindful of what you buy moving forward. And make sure it is something that you can wear at least 30 times.
How To Recycle Clothing
H&M has garment collection boxes at their stores, as well as other stores under the H&M umbrella, where you can drop off textiles and used clothing that are either sold in the secondhand market; re-purposed for other uses, such as cleaning cloths; or upcycled into other products, such as insulation materials. The great thing about this service is that you can drop off any clothing or textiles. They don’t have to be H&M brand clothing.
Now I may not be a big fan of H&M, in terms of how cheaply-made (and disposable) their clothing is, but I do appreciate that they have this service. In 2018 alone, they “collected 20,649 tonnes of textiles for reuse and recycling through [their] garment collecting initiative” (H&M), which is a whole lotta textiles that aren’t in the trash right now.
Levi’s has recycling boxes in each of their stores that recycle denim, regardless of what brand or style they are. Much of the collected denim is used for building insulation. Added bonus? Levi’s gives you 20% off any item when you bring in your old denim for recycling.
Similar to Levi’s fabric-specific recycling program, Marine Layer has recycling boxes in their retail locations, but these are specific to t-shirts. They collect used t-shirts of any brand, sort them by color, and recycle them into new tees as part of their re-spun collection. As I write this post, they have collected 168,232 t-shirts for recycling into new tees.
Textile Recycling Near You
Depending on where you live, there may be a textile collection location nearby where you can drop off used clothing and other fabrics. Usually, with a city collection like this, textiles of all sorts are collected and sorted by category. Some clothing goes to secondhand stores and even international markets, where there’s a high demand for affordable secondhand clothing. Other, lower-quality textiles may be upcycled into other products, such as insulation and low grade fiber blends. In New York City, GrowNYC has weekly textile drop-offs, where people can bring their used clothing for a chance at a second life.
Currently only in NYC, FABSCRAP allows individuals to drop off fabric scraps (but not clothing) for recycling. This option is less for a closet purge and more for anyone who makes their own clothes or sews a lot and tends to have a lot of fabric scraps lying around. There’s a drop-off fee of $1.50 per pound with locations in both Brooklyn and Manhattan. FABSCRAP also offers recycling services for fashion companies, designers, and the like who have large amounts of fabric/textiles to recycle.
Other Options for Getting Rid of Clothes Without Reverting to the Trash
Have you ever heard of a clothing swap? It’s a social or neighborhood gathering where everyone brings several items they’d like to trade. This not only allows you to get rid of stuff you no longer need; it also gives you the opportunity to get something “new” that you want. Clothing swaps are also a great way to get together with your friends/neighbors and to socialize with a purpose.
There’s also a trading app called Bunz that allows you to post individual items that you’d like to trade. The app is most popular in Canada and parts of Europe, but is gaining traction in the US as well.
There’s no shortage of places to sell your secondhand clothing. From online websites like Poshmark (my personal favorite) and thredUP, to brick and mortar stores like Beacon’s Closet and Buffalo Exchange, to smaller boutique thrift stores, there’s literally something for everyone. I personally love the convenience and simplicity of selling through online websites because you can do it all from the comfort of your home, and don’t ever have to wait in line when selling your stuff. Buuutttt it can be more time intensive since you have to list your items individually, compared to dropping off a giant load of clothes at a store. There are pros and cons to each.
Whether you take your clothes to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, or you find a local shelter or non-profit that accepts clothing, there are always people in need, which is why donating your clothes can be the most rewarding option of all. A simple Google search of “clothing donation near me” can pull up a litany of local options.
You can also tap into local Buy Nothing groups where you list items or clothing you wanna give away, and other people in the group can collect them right from your home. This may seem weird at first, but in my experience, it’s been a great way to give to my community, and has also given me the opportunity to get to know my neighbors better. All while getting rid of stuff that I didn’t even have to leave my apartment to do.
Repurpose & Upcycle
This is probably the most fun option of all. It allows you to channel the creative part of you that loves a good craft project or a chance to DIY the shit out of something. You can take old t-shirts and upcycle them into reusable tote bags, cut them up into rags to clean your house, or turn them into festive cloth napkins. You can also take just about any piece of clothing and turn it onto super unique gift wrap. And all of these ideas actually allow you to kill 2 birds with 1 stone. You avoid sending items that you no longer need to the trash, and you satisfy other needs in your life, like napkins, wrapping paper, and reusable shopping bags with things that you already have.
The purpose of a closet purge should be to simply make your wardrobe more intentional and easier to navigate when getting dressed. The truth is: most people only use about 20% of the clothes in their closet, leaving the remaining 80% to collect dust [The Wall Street Journal]. Don’t let that be you – recycle your clothing. Let’s be intentional with the clothes we have and mindful about how we get rid of what we don’t need.
Have you ever done a closet purge before? How did you recycle your clothing? What was the best thing to come out of it?