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Because You Asked

Because You Asked: How Can Stuffed Animals Be Upcycled?

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Here’s how you can get rid of stuffed animals without sentencing them to the landfill.

Dear Recyclebank: Is there any way to upcycle stuffed animals? I’m concerned about donating them to a thrift store like I would with washed, hard toys. —Ruth W.

Dear Ruth: Most parents are likely to identify with your dilemma. What do you do with all of those stuffed animals kids seem to collect?

Believe it or not, may charity thrift stores (including Goodwill) do accept stuffed animals as donations. You can also check if you have a local donation point for Stuffed Animals For Emergencies (S.A.F.E.), which collects and cleans stuffed animals to give to children enduring traumatic situations. Local police or fire stations, family shelters, or the children’s wing of a hospital, might also accept stuffed animals for donation. When you do donate, it’s best that the stuffed animals are in “like-new” condition, without any rips, odors, or stains.

As far as upcycling your kids’ lovies, there are some fun project ideas that can keep them in the family, perhaps in a nicer way than letting them collect dust, piled on a shelf. You can use them to fill a cushion or a beanbag, or take them apart and re-stitch them for a cool keepsake. Or, turn one into a backpack or cute purse.

For those creatures that are too well-loved to go to a new home or be upcycled, many textiles recyclers will accept them. Textiles account for around 5 percent of landfill space, so it’s a good idea to recycle your stuffed animals (not to mention old clothes that can’t be donated), as they will be used to make textiles that are often used in garments for developing countries, or used for fibers for other applications.

So once your kids’ stuffed animals are no longer loved, there’s no reason they should stuff up the landfill when there are so many more helpful and creative ways to part with them!
How have you creatively disposed of stuffed animals? Share your ideas in the comments below.
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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.

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  • Roxanne N. 25 days ago
    Our zoo will take some stuffed animals. They are used as toys for the animals to play with during the winter.
  • Melissa H. 1 month ago
    I haven't run into this problem yet- my son is a toddler, and most of his stuffies are from thrift shops. I machine wash on gentle, tumble dry on low, and give them brushing and fluffing if they look like they need it. They're great for practicing animal sounds and learning about different parts of the world.
  • Mary G. 1 month ago
    If you are at all handy with sewing machine there is a great project that is easy. You take the plushies apart and break them down to reove the plastic eyes, any sharp bits. Take all the stuffing and set aside. You patchwork the fabric all together into the sz of a average rectangle laundry basket bottom. make two and sew ogether inside out then reverse and stuff, stitch closed. So you end up with a soft cushion- Then you create a 4-5 inch tall rectangle that you fold over to create a bumper for the cushion. I make these for a local dog shelter. I make puppy pads with the extra fabric. Another really cute project is to cut the faces off and stitch those flat against a childs t shirt or bib overalls for a pocket.
  • B L. 1 month ago
    Having volunteered at thrift stores, I can attest the about 98 percent of stuffed toys donated end up in the landfill anyway. LOTS more are donated than bought. The comment about "police or fire stations, family shelters, or the children’s wing of a hospital, might also accept stuffed animals for donation" is true, but they have to be like new or they won't risk giving them to a vulnerable child.
    • B L. 1 month ago
      I'll add that the recognizable character ones are much more likely to be wanted in a thrift store (or any other place you can donate them.) Also, before trying to donate them to a thrift store, look inside - - if you don't see any for sale, then any stuffed toys will go right into the dumpster. If you do see them, ask first because they might have too many and they don't really want more.
  • Dulse S. 1 month ago
    I was them and just give them away for the needed childrens so I go and put the teaddy bears on the foundaccion biens
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