Just 15% of textiles are recycled in the US, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency — but this post will share plenty of resources for where to recycle old clothes (and other textiles too!) so that we can change this statistic!
The thing is that to many, tossing out an old shirt or pair of underwear may seem insignificant, but the collective impact is massive. In fact, the EPA estimated that 11.2 million tons of textiles were discarded in 2017, making up 8% of all municipal solid waste in the United States.
And the problem isn’t just in the U.S. either — one study found that the average Briton throws away about 3.1kg of textiles every single year.
With the issue pretty clear, let’s talk about solutions!
First: buy fewer, better things! The less we have in our closets, the less we’ll have to figure out how to handle at the end of their lives. And when you are buying something, consider shopping secondhand first to help promote a more circular economy.
Also, if your clothing has a simple issue with it, consider mending or repairing it and if there’s a fit issue, first explore if it’s possible to work with a seamstress or tailor to extend its life!
If your clothing is in great condition, but you just don’t like the style anymore or its the wrong size (and beyond being fixable) try selling your clothing through a local consignment shop or one of these online secondhand sites. Or consider swapping the garment with a family member or friend or just giving it as a “hand-me-down” to a sibling or cousin.
When none of the above options work, recycling can be a feasible option!
So, lets dive into resources for where to recycle old clothing Globally, in the US, in Canada, in Europe, and in Australia.
Textile Recycling Available Globally
Freecycle: The Freecycle Network™ is a global nonprofit that connects people who want to get or give stuff for free to keep it out of the trash! With over 5,000 groups and 9 million members, you’re bound to connect with someone who wants to reuse and rewear your pre-loved clothing or other fashion items.
Trash Nothing: Similar to Freecycle, Trash Nothing lets you give or get stuff for free in your local community. Just create an account and post up a photo and description of what you’d like to give to be reused!
Buy Nothing Facebook Groups: Buy Nothing groups are another great place to exchange used stuff, like clothes! Just go to Facebook and search “Buy Nothing” + your city or broader region.
Local Animal Shelters: Check in with your community’s animal shelter, wildlife rescue organization, or even a veterinarian’s office to see if they could use old worn-out textiles as bedding or blankets for animals.
Textile Recycling in the US
Programs Accepting All Clothing
The North Face Stores: You can recycle old clothes and footwear from any brand at The North Face retail and outlet locations through their “Clothes the Loop” program. In exchange, you’ll get $10 off a purchase of $100 or more at The North Face. (And the brand has an increasing number of eco-friendly products!)
Levi’s Stores: Levi’s originally launched their recycling program in San Francisco and it is now available at every Levi’s retail location in the U.S.! You can drop off any brand of shoes or clothing and get 10% off any full-priced Levi’s item.
& Other Stories Stores: This in-store recycling program accepts used garments from any brand as well as other textiles, too, like towels and socks. & Other Stories also has a beauty packaging return program. For both programs, you’ll receive a voucher for 10% off.
Goodwill: Goodwill is a thrift store and one of the world’s leaders in textile recycling. The revenue earned supports Goodwill’s job training programs.
Helpsy (Northeast): B-Corp certified textile recycling company that diverts used clothing from landfills. 95% of what they collect is reused, upcycled, or recycled! This page has a list of what items Helpsy accepts (they even take Halloween costumes)! You can either find a drop-off location or schedule a pick-up if you live in Westchester County NY.
Wearables Collections (NYC only): Organization that collects clothing in New York City. You can drop off clothing anytime at 180 W. 9th St Brooklyn, NY 11231, in various participating commercial and residential buildings throughout the city, or at one of the 31 GrowNYC’s weekly Greenmarkets the organization is at. You can also schedule a home pick-up for $20.
TerraCycle Fabrics and Clothing Zero Waste Box: You can recycle old clothes or any other textiles without even leaving your home with this box from TerraCycle. Unfortunately, this box does come with a price. ($103 – $313 depending on which size box you need.)
Bra and Underwear Recycling
The Bra Recyclers: Bras are difficult to recycle thanks to elastics, underwires, clasps, padding, or even lace and other embellishments. But The Bra Recyclers can give your bras a second life. The organization accepts gently used (washed!) bras and gives them to survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking to support them in their transition back to self-sufficiency. Just simply fill out their form and either drop off or mail in your bras.
Knickey: Worn underwear is a tough thing to sell secondhand, so recycling is probably the best bet here. Organic underwear brand Knickey has partnered with a local New York City-based nonprofit to recycle intimates into insulation, rug pads, and rags.
Madewell: Recycle any pair of denim jeans at a Madewell drop-off location and they’ll be recycled (or really downcycled) into housing insulation through a partnership with Blue Jeans Go Green™. In exchange, you’ll get $20 off of a new pair at Madewell. The brand has recycled over a million pairs of jeans since starting this project!
American Eagle: Similar to Madwell, AE will take any pair of jeans (doesn’t have to be their brand) and will recycle them into housing insulation thanks to their partnership with Blue Jeans Go Green™. You’ll also receive a $10 credit for a pair of AE jeans.
Brand-Specific Recycling Programs
The Renewal Workshop: If you have used clothing from one of the following brands, you can send it to The Renewal Workshop for them to renew and resell: ace&jig, Carhartt, Eagle Creek, Ibex, Indigenous, Lo & Sons, Mara Hoffman, Mountain Khakis, NAU, Osprey, PEARL iZUMi, prAna, Rambler’s Way, Toad&Co, and Vuori.
Here’s the address to send your clothes to (contact them or double check this page to ensure the address has not changed if you are sending in your clothing):
CircleBack @ The Renewal Workshop
180 NE HERMAN CREEK LN STE 101
CASCADE LOCKS OR 97014-6712
Eileen Fisher: The sustainable fashion designer has a take-back program to send your used Eileen Fisher pieces. Wearable pieces are cleaned and resold through EF’s Renew program and unwearable pieces are recycled into other products, like pillows through their Waste No More program.
Patagonia: Trade in your used Patagonia apparel and gear through the brand’s Worn Wear program in-store or through mail-in. In exchange, you’ll get credit for future Patagonia purchases.
For Days: Zero waste fashion brand For Days lets you endlessly swap items from their collection. Just order the new-to-you items you’d like and send back your old clothes to get recycled.
For Days also has a “Take Back Bag”, which is a way for their customers to send them their old clothing or textiles from any brand to be recycled responsibly! The bag (which measures 19×24) is $10 to cover the recycling and shipping costs.
Uniqlo: Recycle worn Uniqlo garments at any Uniqlo location. Wearable items are sent to refugees, disaster victims and others in need. Unwearable items are downcycled.
Arc’teryx: Trade in your pre-loved Arc’teryx items to be repaired, cleaned, and resold and in exchange, receive credit towards your next Arc’teryx purchase.
Coyuchi: Not fashion, but still textiles. You can send back your old Coyuchi bedding linens to be renewed, recycled, or upcycled and get 15% off your next order.
B2B Textile Recycling
FABCYCLE: A program where fashion designers, manufacturers, and brands in the US and Canada can recycle leftover fabric rolls and scraps. Designers and brands can also purchase excess fabric from FABCYCLE!
Other Miscellaneous Accessories
For Old Glasses: Goodwill has reported that they accept glasses. (New Eyes has in the past accepted used glasses donations via mail; they have paused the program due to COVID, but they may re-open it.)
For Athletic Shoes: Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe Program recycles any brand of athletic shoes and repurposes them through Nike Grind. Just drop off your worn athletic shoes (not footwear like sandals or heels!) at a participating Nike retail store.
Textile Recycling in Canada
The North Face Stores: The North Face’s “Clothes the Loop” recycling program was such a success that they expanded it! You can now recycle old clothes or footwear from any brand at 18 different North Face stores in Canada (see locations here) and receive $10 off your next purchase of $100 or more.
Nike: Recycle any brand of athletic shoes at participating Nike stores in Canada through Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe Program. Your shoes will be repurposed and transformed into new shoes through their Nike Grind initiative.
FABCYCLE: Designers, brands, and apparel manufacturers can recycle fabric scraps and leftover fabric rolls through FABCYCLE.
Textile Recycling in Europe
The North Face Stores (Germany only): Recycle any brand of footwear or apparel through The North Face’s “Clothes the Loop” program via drop-off locations at select retail locations in Germany in exchange for $10 off your next purchase of $100+. (See locations here.)
Levi’s Stores (UK): Levi’s reported that they expanded their clothing and footwear recycling program to the UK in 2016. I have not found any updates, but check out your nearby Levi’s store to see if they still have their recycling programs! In exchange, get 10% a regular-priced item at Levi’s.
Textile Recycling in Australia
Manrags: Eco sock brand Manrags has a recycling program that you can recycle old clothes or shoes from any brand with them (just no underwear or bras). You’ll have to pay a $25 fee but you get that $25 back in credit for Manrags.
TerraCycle Fabrics and Clothing Zero Waste Box: Recycle any of your old textiles — including worn-out clothing — with TerraCycle. Unfortunately, these boxes do come at a price. ($185 – $252 depending on the size box you select.)
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