Waste Not, Want Not.

How To Sustainably Recycle Or Reuse Clothing Items

As the old saying goes, in order to be more sustainable, we must reduce, re-use, and recycle. When thinking about waste we often think of litter and more recently attention has shifted towards food waste. In this article however, we’re going to focus on clothing and how to make your wardrobe, and what you do with it when you’re done, more eco-friendly.

It is thought that Americans throw away over 10 million tons of textiles per year, which the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates makes up 5% of US landfills (Velez, 2017)(Singer, 2021). However, ending up in the trash is not the only fate that needs await our unwanted clothing.


In order to reduce the amount of clothing that needs to be reused or recycle, we must highlight the importance of being a conscious consumer. In terms of clothing, this means only purchasing clothes we love so that we are less likely to get rid of them. It also means purchasing second-hand clothing. Second-hand clothing is already in the waste stream and by purchasing second-hand you could be preventing the item going to landfill (Singer, 2021).


Re-using items of clothing, either by upcycling or passing them on to someone else to re-use, is a great way to cut down on clothing waste. If the items are in good condition, you could consider selling them to a local thrift store or online via a platform like eBay or Poshmark (Singer, 2021). Alternatively, donating the items to a local homeless shelter or community centre helps other people while also helping the planet and keeping the clothes out of landfill. However, donated clothing should be in good, wearable condition! If the clothing is no longer wearable you can upcycle and repurpose it into useful items you need around your home, like cleaning cloths (Booth, 2019).


If the clothing is not wearable, and you don’t have use for it around you home, there are textile recycling programmes that can turn it into some new (Velez, 2017). Recycled textiles can be used for multiple purposes including making insulation for buildings, making the stuffing for pillows and car seats, and sometimes being fully recycled into new fabric (Singer, 2021). To find local opportunities to recycle clothing in your area, look for clothing recycling bins and drop off your items. Resources such as Recycle Now can help you find recycling bins in your area. With a little research, you can find many opportunities to recycle your unwanted clothing. Terracycle run a Fabrics Zero Waste Box that you fill with clothing and ship to Terracycle for them to repurpose it. Nike created the Reuse-A-Shoe program where they use old athletic shoes to create new playgrounds, tracks, and courts (Booth, 2019).

Like most sustainable practices, recycling and upcycling clothing items requires a shift away from the traditional way we do things towards more eco-friendly, and slightly more time-consuming methods. However, also like most sustainable practices, it is 100% worth it and overwhelmingly important that we strive to reduce our impact on the planet, one old t-shirt at a time.


Booth, J. (2019). How To Recycle Clothes & Shoes That Aren’t In Good Condition. Retrieved from Bustle:

Singer, L. (2021). How To: Recycle Old Clothing. Retrieved from Trash is for Tossers:

Velez, H. (2017). 10 Impactful Ways To Recycle & Repurpose Used Clothing. Retrieved from The Good Trade:

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