What should you do with clothing items that are too stained, faded, or worn out to donate? Consider recycling them instead of putting them in the trash. Recycling unwearable clothing keeps it out of a landfill, where synthetic fabrics such as polyester, nylon, and spandex can break down into micro-plastics that can pollute waterways. But recycling clothing is not as easy as you may think.

How is clothing recycled? In some cases, it may be turned into new products. For example, fabric made from wool can be used to make wool yarn, which can then be used to make new clothes.

But most clothing is made from a blend of different types of fabric, making it difficult or impossible to recycle it into its original components. In these cases, it is baled, and the bales are sold to companies that will shred it and use it to make insulation, furniture stuffing, or paper products.

Use this list to help you responsibly discard clothing that is worn out, stained, faded, torn, or unable to be donated.

Where to Recycle Clothing In Your Community

Many thrift stores recycle clothing they are unable to sell. Goodwill and The Salvation Army are two nationwide thrift store chains that both recycle their excess clothing (according to their websites).

Before donating clothing to a thrift store, call ahead and ask if they accept unwearable clothing for recycling. If they say yes, bag and label these items separately from other clothing you may be donating and drop them off at your local donation facility.

Box of clothing to recycle

Stores that Accept Clothing for Recycling

Many nationwide retail clothing chains accept clothing for recycling, and some offer discounts in exchange for these items.

Here are some stores that will take used clothes and recycle any that can’t be re-worn:

  • H&M – Accepts any brand of used clothing in any condition.
  • Anthropologie – Accepts any type of clothing made from at least 90% cotton.
  • Pacsun – Accepts jeans for recycling if they’re at least 90% cotton.
  • American Eagle – Accepts denim for recycling.
  • Frank and Oak – Accepts denim for recycling.
  • Ariat – Accepts denim for recycling.
  • Madewell – Accepts denim for recycling.
  • Nike – Some stores accept Nike brand shoes, tops, and bottoms for recycling.
  • Patagonia – Accepts Patagonia brand products in any condition for resale or recycling.
  • The North Face – Accepts The North Face brand products in any condition for resale or recycling.
Torn clothing

Where to Mail Clothing for Recycling

If you’re unable to recycle clothing locally, you can recycle it by mail, although you may have to pay a fee in order to do so. Here are some places to recycle clothing by mail:

  • Thousand Fell – Print a free shipping label, send in your used clothing, and get store credit in return.
  • The Reformation – Print a free shipping label, send in your used clothing, and get store credit in return.
  • For Days – Purchase a Take Back bag for $20, use it to send in your used clothing, and get $20 in store credit.
  • Give Back Box – Print a free shipping label and use it to send in used clothing for resale or recycling (including at least 5 seasonally appropriate items in good condition).
  • ThredUp Cleanout Kit – Print a free shipping label and send in used clothing. You’ll get cash for any items ThredUp can sell. Any items that don’t sell can be recycled for free or returned to you for a $10.99 shipping fee.

Recycling clothing is one step you can take towards reducing your carbon footprint. By recycling and reusing clothing, you can reduce the environmental impact of the fashion industry and support more sustainable practices.

Where to recycle stained, torn, faded, and worn-out clothing so that it doesn't end up in a landfill | MovingTowardMinimalism.com