How to Responsibly Dispose of Old Clothes

Did you know that the typical lifetime of a piece of clothing in an American’s closet is just 3 years? The average American throws away 70 pounds of textile waste annually; and just 15 percent of this actually gets recycled. The rest? You guessed it: landfill.

When we think of waste piling up in our landfills and our oceans, we typically envision things like plastic straws, broken electronics and dirty diapers  not perfectly wearable clothing. But unwanted garments actually make up 5 percent of all landfills in the United States…

It’s shameful, really. And totally unnecessary!

If you’re used to bagging up all your old clothes and dropping them off on the doorstep of your local thrift store, know that there are other ways! Even in the case of decade-old underwear and paint-stained t-shirts, there are textile recyclers that will take them. Let’s take a look at the options that are out there.

How to responsibly dispose of
clothing and textiles

What to do with clothing that is current, but doesn’t fit or doesn’t suit you

Resell it! Recycling clothing doesn’t necessarily mean shipping it off to get broken down and remade into new fibers. It can also include selling (and purchasing) gently used items from the secondhand market.

Unrecognizable woman receives box of clothing during clothing drive

If you have items in great condition and want to make a little extra cash, consider one of these three options:

  1. Take clothing to your local consignment shop. They’ll put your items on the rack and, once they sell, pay you a cut of the earnings. It’s easy and a great way to support local business!
  2. Send clothing to an online reseller like thredUPEarn cash or store credit for items you’re no longer wearing. They’ll ship back or responsibly recycle anything they don’t think will sell.
  3. Resell clothing in your own online boutique. Take pictures of your gently used items and post on platforms like Poshmark, eBay, Mercari or The RealReal. Get cash each time you make a sale, minus a small percentage that goes to the platform host.

What to do with clothing that is dated, but still in wearable condition

Donate or upcycle it! Thrift stores, community centers, homeless shelters and charity shops can use your unwanted clothing to support people and fund valuable programs. Just make sure that there is an actual need for the items you’re dropping off! This is really important.

Woman shopping in East London second hand marketplace

Also, when you donate clothing, make sure it’s actually in usable, wearable condition. Many shops have policies that disallow unacceptable items like old socks or torn up sweaters, forcing them to send unwearable clothing to landfill. That just defeats the whole purpose!

Feeling crafty? Repurpose worn out t-shirts into cleaning rags, sew your jeans into a tote, and make drawstring produce bags from whatever’s left.

What to do with clothing that can’t be used in its current condition

If the clothing you are trying to get rid of just aren’t suitable for reselling, donating or upcycling, consider shipping them to textile recycling programs like these:

Rolled Denim Jeans

Not what you were looking for? Check out these resources for more information:

Well, there you have it! Everything you needed to know about keeping your clothing out of the waste cycle and back into productive use. Have questions about all this? Leave them in the comments!

42 comments

Mia B
Mia B3 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Hayley Rose Stirling

Occasionally I have sold some clothing on a site like Shpock as it’s more local so I feel I am helping someone in my community grab a bargain. But more often than not, I wear my clothes until they fall apart! I don’t have the money to just buy things on a whim and decide to re-do my wardrobe. Luckily where I live the local council collects textiles for recycling but I do like the idea of cutting things up to them use as wash rags etc.

I’m about to go out to see if any of my clothes that don’t currently fit me but are still in an ok condition are able to be altered. If not then I will donate them to a charity shop. I haven’t been able to donate actual money to any charities recently, so I feel this would be the best solution for these items.

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Chad Anderson
Chad A11 days ago

Thank you.

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Demy L
Demy L17 days ago

Thanks, i always donate my clothes if they are still wearable. If not i sell them at a local recycle shop.

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Dennis H
Dennis H17 days ago

Thanks.

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Lorraine A

I take mine to goodwill or St Vincent de Paul. Thanks for sharing.

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Paulo Reeson
Paulo Reeson18 days ago

ty

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HEIKKI R
HEIKKI R18 days ago

thank you

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Mike R
Mike R18 days ago

Thanks

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Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Hill19 days ago

good info

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