Wondering what to do with old clothes that cannot be donated…
What to do with old clothes that cannot be donated, that is the question o the day. Don’t worry, just because you think something can’t be donated doesn’t mean it’s necessarily true. Lots of places will take more items than you think. So don’t rule out donation just yet.
It is pretty incredible what technology can do these days. There are companies that completely break down a pair of jeans and turn the fibers into housing insulation!
Some sea turtle recuses reuse old bra hooks to help mend fractures in the animals under their care according to the Smithsonian Mag.
So before you start tossing all your clothes, shoes and accessories into the trash do a little research and see if there is some other way to make use of your waste!
Textile Waste Stats you Should Know
When we think about our own waste it doesn’t seem so monumental.
Consider instead the waste generated by the 9 billion people on the planet and we begin to see a very startling picture.
What should we be doing with it all? What do we do with all our unwanted items, especially our old clothes?
According to the EPA, over 10 million tons of textile waste entered landfills in the US in 2015 alone.
Reselling Good Condition and New Items
Reselling your clothes is a great way to recoup some of the money you spent on them to begin with.
For me, there is nothing worse than buying something and later realizing I will never use or wear it. I feel guilty, convince myself I might actually wear it one day and let it hang in my closet forever.
- First off, that is a silly and useless position to take. Don’t lie to yourself. You will never wear them again!
- Second, unused items are taking up both physical and mental space! Let the physical item and the mental guilt go!
- Third, selling is easy! Check out the easiest options for a quick sell below.
Even if you can’t do your own yard sale check with your communities (Church, housing board, friends and family) to see if someone else is having a sale you can participate in.
Local Consignment Stores
Consignment stores allow you to bring in your clothing and they give you a portion of the sales price within a period of time OR they pay you a percentage up front. Think Platos Closet or Once Upon a Child.
Online Consignment Stores
These are my personal favorite because they are so easy. You just upload your clothes and mail them out once someone purchases them. Check out Mercari, Poshmark and even Facebook Marketplace.
If you aren’t worried about recouping any money think about donating your items. Check with each retailer below to see if they accept all the items you plan on donating. Remember just because you might think the item isn’t worth saving doesn’t mean it is no longer donateable.
All kinds of children’s clothes are needed for foster parents
Take old towels and blankets to local animal shelters
Take used school uniforms to schools for resale. Some schools also use clothing drives and yard sales as fundraisers so check with your local school board to see what options they have.
Donation Bins can be found just about anywhere. Usually, they have a list on the bin announcing what it is they take, but you can always check on their website to double-check.
If you own your own business you can always see about partnering with a donation bin service to place a collection bin on your premises too.
sorts clothing donations into 4 categories “Grade A & B- The clothes that are in a good re-useable condition are sold to markets that are in need of good quality of used clothing. Grade C & D- The clothes that are not in good condition with holes, rips, etc come under this grade. These are cut into rags and sold to industries that use recycled clothing as raw materials in the production of new products”
“The clothes dropped in our bins are sold and reused in developing countries, where the demand for used clothing is high, or repurposed into something new. The proceeds go towards development projects like Teacher Training, Child Aid, and Farmers’ Clubs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.”
“About 45% is usable “as is” in the growing second-hand clothing market – 20% is used for upholstery and automotive stuffing – 30% is used for industry wiping rags – ATRS gives away 3% for disaster relief.”
Recycling Old and Worn Clothing & Shoes
Textile recycling is pretty dang cool! Before researching for this post I thought the majority of “recycling” was just taking used clothes, bundling them up, and sending them to other places where they could be used in their same functionality. Wrong!
There are lots of companies out there making all kinds of NEW Secondary Materials from our used clothing. Many of these companies are teamed up with larger retailers and aren’t necessarily available to you and I to access but they may be working with the retailers you recycle through.
For example, the company Evrnu has developed a process called Nucycl that uses old textiles to make a brand new engineered fiber, basically a super-strong polyester. They currently work with brands like Adidas, Target, and Stella McCartney.
“At Soles4Souls, we turn unwanted shoes and clothing into opportunity by keeping them from going to waste and putting them to good use.”
“Fabrics and clothing including bibs, burp cloths, blankets, breast pads, changing pads, diaper bags, pillows, bedsheets, linens, play mats, play rugs, privacy wraps, mattress protectors, jeans, denim bags and accessories, canvas bags, mail bags, canvas tents, shirts, sweaters, tees, shorts, skirts, pants, socks, undergarments, active wear, sleepwear, rainwear, hoodies, jackets, towels, non-plastic bath mats, bedding, window treatments, outdoor fabric from patio furniture, outdoor fabric mats or other similar fabrics.”
Retail Takeback Programs
-for clothes that cannot be donated
“Recycle your used apparel and footwear (any condition, any brand) at our stores and earn a $10 reward toward your next purchase of $100 or more at The North Face.”
“Levi’s® stores (and Outlets) will have a recycling box where you can drop off any denim from any brand and give your jeans a new life. 20% off single item when you recycle denim in store.“
“Drop your bag of unwanted clothing in the recycling box at your local store. All textiles are welcome – any brand, any condition – even odd socks, worn-out T-shirts and old sheets. The textiles are then sent to the nearest recycling plant, where they’re sorted by hand. For every bag of textiles you drop off, you’ll receive a discount card for 15% off your next in-store purchase.”
“Leave clothing you no longer use in the containers you will find in our stores. We will make sure we deliver it to collaborating organizations, who will process the garments to give them a new life and support the development of projects in your community.”
“Our Reuse-A-Shoe program recycles athletic shoes at the end of their life, giving them a new life through Nike Grind. We make it easy for materials to live on from one product to the next—just drop your used shoes at a participating Nike retail store in North America or Europe.”
“The unique composition of Native Shoes can be reground into versatile material that is useful in the creation of seating, playground flooring, insulation and more. Leveraging a proprietary regrind process, we are able to break down the materials found in every style of Native Shoes including sandals, slip-ons, knit sneakers and boots. From that point – there’s no telling where your soles could turn up!”
Are you still wondering “what to do with old clothes that cannot be donated?”
Repurpose and Upcycle
With the recent passing of my grandmother, we have inherited closets and closets of her clothing. Unable to part with it my mother and I have started turning them into new pieces of clothing for ourselves and my daughters.
It’s been a work of love as she was the one who taught us to sew and to never throw anything away.
Skillshare is a teaching platform where you can take classes on almost anything. Sewing missing buttons back on, or giving new life into old textiles. You can even try if for free for a month before committing to a membership.
Old Tote Bags
Reuse This Bag has a post on 35 Awesome How-To-Do Things with Reusable Custom Bags which will give you all the inspiration on upcycling the multitude of tote bags we all find ourselves with.
Composting Old Clothing
-what to do with old clothes that cannot be donated or even recycled!
When clothing is too old and worn to be able to resold or donated you can look at composting. Composting can be done with most natural fibers. This is another reason it is important to stay away from synthetic fibers when buying clothing when possible, but that’s a topic for another day!
Check out this post by 1MillionWomen to learn exactly how to compost your old and worn clothing.
Specialty Textiles and Clothing
Wondering what to do with those special items and can they or can they not be donated? Check out these groups below and see if you can help them out in their missions.
Bras & Underwear
Brarecycling.com -” We are a clothing recycling company specializing in the reuse of new and pre-loved bras. Our goal is to educate and influence retailers and consumers on the benefits of the circular economy and extending the life of clothing (e.g., bras), rather than discarding them into landfills. The social impact of the re-use of bras has allowed us to donate over 4 million bras to women and girls around the world in need and/or who are escaping domestic violence and human trafficking.”
More Bras & Underwear
Freethegirls.org “We partner with those who have a heart for victims of trafficking. With holistic reintegration programs and economic opportunity through bras, we offer the opportunity for these women to empower themselves to change the trajectory of their lives. We accept both new and gently used bras of all sizes and styles, including sports bras, nursing bras, and camisoles.”
Brides across America – “Brides Across America (BAA) is a non-profit committed to loving one another by gifting weddings and wedding gowns to our military & first responders.” Also check out groups like The Angel Gowns Project who take used wedding dresses and turn them into bereavement gowns for stillborn, premature and deceased infants.
Women’s Workwear and Suits
Dress for Sucess accepts Women’s clothing in size 0-2 and 14 and up, especially larger sizes
Women’s business appropriate shoes in various sizes and especially sizes 9 and above.
Control undergarments in large sizes (packaged or tagged (new))
New, unused and not expired cosmetics and toiletries
Hopefully, we’ve answered that burning question “What to do with old clothes that cannot be donated?”. As you can see there are so many different ways to recycle, upcycle, transform, recreate, destruct and even compost those old clothing items you no longer want.
Save the landfill, create or bring some hope and joy to yourself or others and do something new with those “old clothes that cannot be donated”!