Wondering what to do with old clothes? Before you consider throwing them away, it’s important to explore how to recycle clothes. Otherwise, your outdated wardrobe could contribute to the staggering number of microfibers, expected to reach 22 million tons in the ocean between 2015 and 2050, due to the textile industry’s impact.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2018, about 17 million tons of textile waste was generated, accounting for 5.8% of the total municipal solid waste (MSW) generated that year. Shockingly, only 14.7% of textiles were recycled, with 2.5 million tons being salvaged, while the remaining 14.5 million tons were either burned or ended up in landfills. In comparison, the recycling rates for aluminum and glass were significantly higher at 34.9% and 31.3% respectively in the same year.

To address this issue, it is crucial to prioritize recycling clothes over disposal. There are various ways to recycle clothes, depending on their condition, including donating, composting, or upcycling. Experts strongly recommend avoiding landfills, as they not only release harmful greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming but also pose risks of contaminating the environment with hazardous chemicals.

By taking a small step towards old clothes recycling, we can help reduce environmental damage and contribute to a more sustainable future. In this blog, we will delve into the topic of recycling old clothes and provide you with practical tips to give your old garments a new lease on life. Together, let’s make a positive impact on the environment through conscious clothes recycling practices.

Let’s see how to recycle clothes!


Before You Recycle Clothes


If your clothes are still in good condition, it is worth considering reselling them to secondhand stores, allowing them to be reused and appreciated by another individual before eventually being recycled. Local thrift stores or consignment shops can serve as viable options for selling your items. Additionally, reputable online reselling platforms like Poshmark, or eBay can provide a broader reach for potential buyers. As the popularity of secondhand fashion continues to rise, reselling clothing and other textiles has become increasingly accessible and beneficial in reducing textile waste.


Consider donating your gently used clothes to nonprofit organizations with dedicated cloth donation programs. These organizations often resell the clothes in their second-hand stores to generate funds for their cause. Well-known nonprofits like Goodwill and Salvation Army are popular choices, but it’s worth exploring if other organizations in your community have similar programs. Prioritize reaching out to your favorite charity to inquire about their capacity to reuse or resell the clothes before resorting to recycling.

Not only can you contribute to the well-being of humans through donations, but you can also make a positive impact on animals in need. Local humane societies and animal sanctuaries greatly appreciate donations of old towels and blankets, which help provide comfort to the animals under their care. Additionally, shelters and organizations supporting the homeless population typically accept various textiles, including clothes and blankets, to assist individuals facing hardship. By donating to these organizations, you can extend the lifespan of your textiles and bring comfort and support to both humans and animals in your community.

Brand Take-Back Programs

Certain brands, such as Nike and Patagonia, have implemented take-back programs that enable customers to send in their used clothes from that specific brand for either recycling or resale, depending on the condition of the items.

Once you’ve decluttered your closet and linen cabinet, it’s worth examining the brands of your items and reaching out to them directly to inquire about their take-back initiatives. Some companies even offer the convenience of providing a prepaid shipping label, making the process of returning the items even more effortless. By participating in these brand-specific take-back programs, you can actively contribute to sustainable practices and ensure that your used textiles are recycled or given a second life through resale.

Exportation Programs

Second-hand clothing plays a crucial role as a valuable commodity in developing countries, particularly in the aftermath of devastating natural disasters. Numerous organizations not only accept textile donations but also allocate a portion of these donations to countries in need. These initiatives help address the clothing needs of communities in distress.

Additionally, specific organizations have tailored programs that focus on accepting particular items to support vulnerable groups. For instance, Free The Girls is an organization that collects donated bras to aid sex trafficking survivors in several countries. The donated bras are then sold by the survivors themselves in second-hand markets, empowering them to achieve financial independence.

These initiatives highlight how second-hand clothing donations contribute to both immediate relief and long-term empowerment in various regions. By supporting these organizations and their targeted programs, individuals can make a meaningful difference in the lives of those in need, offering both practical assistance and the opportunity for individuals to rebuild their lives.


Composting comes as a surprise, but clothing and textiles can be excellent additions to compost! When looking to compost, seek out natural fiber items made of pure wool, cotton, silk, or linen that are no longer suitable for donation due to damage or age. Cut these textiles into small pieces to accelerate the composting process effectively.

To ensure optimal composting of textile materials, it is essential to eliminate any non-compostable components, such as metal zippers, plastic buttons, or stains from substances like motor oil and paint, before adding them to your compost pile. It’s also worth checking with your local city authorities to see if they accept clothing for composting. If your city does not offer clothing composting services, you can explore how to create compost at home to make the most of these textile materials in an environmentally friendly manner.

Why Recycling Clothes Is Important?

Unfortunately, the surge in consumerism and materialism has witnessed a concerning growth over the years, leading to significant problems. The constant influx of new fast fashion brands, designs, and clothing aims to meet the ever-growing demand for the latest trends. However, this incessant consumption has resulted in a substantial increase in waste, with detrimental effects on our environment. Here are some distressing facts and issues that shed light on the magnitude of the problem:

  1. Global clothing production has experienced a staggering doubling in the past 15 years. Sadly, this rise in production has been accompanied by a decrease in the average lifespan of garments, contributing to a culture of disposability.
  2. Shockingly, close to 60% of all clothing produced is disposed of within a year of being manufactured, ultimately ending up in landfills. The intricate nature of textiles poses challenges for effective recycling, with only a minuscule 1% of clothing being transformed into new garments. Approximately 13% find alternative uses in different sectors.
  3. The United States stands as the largest consumer of clothing and textiles worldwide, consuming a staggering amount. Astonishingly, around 85% of the apparel consumed in the U.S., which amounts to nearly 3.8 billion pounds yearly, ends up in landfills as solid waste.
  4. The decomposition of organic materials in landfills releases landfill gas, including methane, into the atmosphere. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and U.S. landfills rank as the third-largest source of methane emissions. Methane has a significantly higher heat-trapping capability than carbon dioxide, contributing to climate change.

These alarming facts underscore the urgent need to address the negative consequences of rampant consumerism and materialism. It is crucial to embrace sustainable alternatives and adopt responsible waste management practices to mitigate the detrimental impact on our environment.

How to Recycle Clothes?

When considering clothing recycling, it is crucial to note that most recycling programs in the U.S. do not accommodate clothing items. Consequently, throwing your used clothes into the bin is not a viable option. Instead, you’ll need to take them directly to a recycler or donation facility that specializes in textile recycling.

If your textiles are no longer in good enough condition to be resold or donated, recycling them is a great alternative. Some thrift stores or consignment shops may still accept them and ask for your consent to recycle items they can’t resell. Numerous organizations and recyclers specifically collect used clothing and textiles to transform them into new products. These can include automobile cushions, insulation, paper, wiping cloths, carpet padding, baseball filling, pillow stuffing, and even pet beds.

In addition to these options, you can also explore local initiatives or programs that focus on textile recycling. By recycling clothes, you contribute to reducing waste and promoting a more sustainable approach to fashion. Remember to check with local recycling centers or organizations for specific guidelines and recommendations on how to properly recycle your clothing items.

Where to Recycle Clothes Responsibly?

  1. Green City Recycler is a textile recycling company in the US that prevents items like used clothing and shoes from ending up in landfills.
  2. Terracycle offers a “zero waste” box that can be filled with unwanted items and returned to them. They recycle and break down these items, selling the raw components for reuse.
  3. Grow NYC aims to recover usable clothing for second-hand markets and sends unsuitable items for recycling, turning them into products like wiping rags or low-grade fiber insulation.
  4. Blue Jeans Go Green accepts old jeans, which they transform into insulation. They also donate insulation to low-income communities.
  5. Smartasn converts recycled materials from used clothing and other sources for reuse.
  6. Fabscrap, based in New York, accepts pre-consumer fabric and textiles and redistributes them to students, artists, and local designers for reuse.
  7. Bra Recycling encourages recycling, reusing, or repurposing bras while providing social benefits to women and girls in need.
  8. Hanky Panky accepts washed bras and panties for recycling from any brand.
  9. Patagonia allows customers to drop off old Patagonia items in exchange for store credit.
  10. Levi’s provides collection boxes in their stores to accept unwanted clothing and shoes from any brand.
  11. H&M collects clothes and textiles from any brand, in any condition, at their stores worldwide.
  12. The North Side allows customers to bring in clothes or shoes from any brand and receive $10 off their next purchase.
  13. Nike Move To Zero accepts athletic sneakers of any brand for recycling.
  14. Recycle Now in the UK provides a Recycling Locator widget to help find the nearest recycling center.
  15. Salvation Army in the UK and Australia sells high-quality donated products in their charity shops and donation centers, while clothing not suitable for sale is sold for reuse overseas.
  16. Return It in Canada accepts clothing, footwear, bags, and accessories for recycling, which are then distributed for reuse by various organizations and companies.

How to Upcycle Clothes?

Now you know how to recycle clothes let’s see 10 creative and eco-friendly ways to upcycle clothes:

  1. Turn old t-shirts into trendy tote bags.
  2. Transform jeans into stylish shorts or skirts.
  3. Repurpose colorful scraps into a patchwork quilt or blanket.
  4. Create unique accessories like headbands or bracelets from fabric scraps.
  5. Give new life to worn-out sweaters by turning them into cozy mittens or pillow covers.
  6. Revamp plain t-shirts with fabric paint, embroidery, or iron-on patches.
  7. Use old buttons, zippers, and fabric to create one-of-a-kind jewelry.
  8. Transform an oversized shirt into a fashionable dress or tunic.
  9. Make reusable fabric napkins or cleaning rags from old linens.
  10. Get crafty with old socks by turning them into puppets, phone sleeves, or pet toys.

These are simple clothes upcycling ideas that will not only breathe new life into your wardrobe but also help sustainably reduce textile waste.

Final Thoughts

Old clothes recycling is a win-win situation for you and the environment; you get to declutter your closet and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time. With various options available such as donation, textile recycling, and upcycling, there’s no excuse to throw away your unwanted clothes in the trash bin. Remember that every piece of clothing that we recycle counts towards a better future for our planet. So next time you’re thinking about clearing out your wardrobe, think twice before tossing them in the garbage and consider alternative ways to recycle them instead. Let’s all do our part in making a positive impact on the environment!


  1. What is Textile Waste?

    Textile waste means discarded or unnecessary textiles, such as clothing, fabrics and other textile products.

  2. What is Textile Recycling?

    Textile recycling is the process of reusing or reusing textile waste to manufacture new products, which reduces the need for raw materials and minimizes environmental impact.

  3. What Are Recycled Clothes Made of?

    Recycled clothing can be created from a variety of materials, including recycled fibers derived from old garments or textile waste, such as polyester, cotton, or wool.

  4. Can You Put Clothes in the Recycling Bin?

    Clothes generally cannot be thrown in the trash, as most recycling facilities do not accept them.

  5. What to Do With Old Clothes?

    Instead of throwing old clothes away, consider donating old clothes to a charity, organizing a clothing exchange, or reusing them to buy new items.

  6. Where to Throw Away Clothes?

    To dispose of old clothes, explore options like clothes recycling programs, drop-off locations, or contacting local waste management authorities for guidance.

  7. Can Old Clothes Go In Recycling?

    Some clothes can be recycled, this depends on local facilities and their capacities. Check with nearby recycling centers or textile recycling programs.

  8. What to Do With Unwanted Clothes?

    Old clothes can be donated, sold, upcycled, or recycled through specialized clothes recycling programs to minimize waste generation.

  9. How Does Recycling Clothes Help the Environment?

    Recycling clothing helps the environment by reducing landfill waste, conserving resources such as WtE(Waste & Energy), and minimizing the need for new clothes.

  10. How Long Does It Take for Clothes to Decompose?

    It depends on factors such as fabric composition, environmental conditions, and landfill practices, but it can take years or even decades.