Textile waste is an enormous an challenging problem for humanity. The Environmental Protection Agency says that nearly 5% of all the landfill space in the United States is full of unwanted clothing.
Did you know that we only recycle textiles in about 15% of cases? And that means the average American is dumping over 70 lbs of clothing each year!
That’s why we all need to work harder to get into textile recycling and start to collect textiles that have reached the end of their lives and do something useful with them, instead of chucking them out.
Resell Your Old Clothing
Assuming you buy your clothing from our favorite affordable ethical clothing brands and don’t wear it too heavily before passing it on – you can always sell your old clothes to other people.
This is the best form of recycling in most cases as it uses almost no resources to pass on clothes and you get more money in your pocket.
Obviously, it’s important to ensure your clothes and fabric aren’t in poor condition if you want to sell them – but if they pass muster, it’s easy to do – you can use services like ThredUp and Poshmark to sell them without leaving home, in fact. (See our curated list of online thrift stores to find places to sell clothing).
Hold A Clothing Swap
Another great method of textile recycling is to hold a clothes swap – clothing swap events are very simple to organize (learn how to run clothing swaps here).
It’s simply a way to bring friends and acquaintances together to get rid of the clothes you don’t need anymore but which you think might be more appreciated by them than the local thrift stores would.
Repurpose Your Clothing Items
You don’t need to use a textile recycling facility to turn the textiles that you have into other textiles – in fact, you may only need a pair of scissors.
Take the textiles collected over the past few months and chop them up into rags. Strip them down into fibers and make new clothing from them
Turn them into ropes to make rugs from. Tie-dye your t-shirts to give them a new lease of life. (Use these best tie-dye kits when you do).
There is simply no end of ways to make other textiles and recycled textiles from your own garments at home.
Donate Textiles To Recycle Textiles (Thrift Store Time)
Many thrift stores have drop boxes in their retail stores that you can walk in and make textile donations to.
Please make sure your donations aren’t just poor condition clothing as that can’t be resold, you want to help in the textile recovery process when you carry out these actions rather than create waste.
The Salvation Army or Goodwill or another charitable organization are great thrift stores to make donations to.
Local Recycling Programs For Unwanted Clothing
Nearly every location in America has some sort of local recycling program – the challenge is to find it.
Sadly, they don’t all run on a similar basis – so, for example, if you live in the state of California? You just have one program from the whole state. New York, on the other hand, has one program for the city, and another for the state.
We like the recycling locator tool at Earth 911 to help track down good places to send your clothing and textiles that accept donations and assist with waste reduction.
Look For Organizations That Want Donated Textiles
There are plenty of charitable organizations that will be only too happy to act as textile recyclers and that seek out donations for textile reuse.
There may not be any donation bins nearby but with a bit of a Google search, you can normally track them down.
An example of this type of organization is Wearable Collections (in NYC) they say that of every million tons of clothing that they receive, they can save 950,000 tons of it! That’s an amazing thing.
Check The Label – Some Manufacturer Will Buy Back Textiles
There are many companies now that are willing to buy back or provide recycling facilities for their own products.
For example, Patagonia runs a buy-back program, American Eagle Outfitters has a recycling collection in every store, as does H&M.
The environmental impact of textile waste can easily be reduced by contacting the supplier of the fabric or clothes and asking how it can be recycled in many cases.
Some Other Good Reasons To Recycle and Reuse
We would always encourage you to reuse something before you recycle it.
Reuse requires much fewer resources than a recycled product does and there are so many good uses for even worn fabrics that recycling really out to be seen as something you do at the end of a textile’s life span rather than when there’s life left in a garment.
We’d also note that this is a good motto for your own wardrobe and that you should, where possible buy secondhand textile products.
However, if you need to recycle, we would suggest that you focus on the fact that you’re reducing that 70 lbs. of junk that each of us sends to landfills each year.
Fast fashion is quite literally killing Mother Earth. And this means it’s harming your health, your children’s health, and the environment.
Even more disturbingly, fast fashion is polluting our food supply!
Recycling is a very important part of switching to slow fashion which is better for everybody.
Making a positive difference on this planet is often easier said than done, but there’s no doubt that no matter what color and material type we’re talking about – textile recovery and recycling is much better than dumping our clothing in a landfill.