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Because You Asked

What Should I Do with Worn-Out Clothing?

By Recyclebank |

Even if your old clothing can’t be resold at a secondhand store, you can still recycle or reuse it.

Dear Recyclebank,

I send gently used clothing to the Salvation Army, but some things are just no longer wearable. What can I do?

-Helen M., Philadelphia, PA


Dear Helen,

There are plenty of ways to give your old clothing a second life if it’s too worn for the closet. Many textiles can be recovered and have their fibers broken down into insulation material, carpet padding, paper, yarn, and more. In fact, according to the EPA, roughly 14.4 percent of textiles from clothing were recovered for export or reprocessing in 2012.

Companies such as American Textile Recycling Services collect donations at drop-off locations and sort out too-worn clothing and other textiles for recycling. Participating Goodwill locations can also make use of clothing too damaged for them to sell, whether by selling it to salvage brokers or making it into industrial wipes. The Council for Textile Recycling maintains a clothing recycling locator that you can use to find facilities in your area.

No recycling options available near you? You can make use of the clothes closer to home. Salvage what fabric you can for craft projects, or cut the clothing down into your own reusable cleaning cloths. See if local schools need rags for art or shop classes, or if animal shelters can use the fabric for cleaning or as bedding. Cotton and other natural-fiber clothing can even be composted as long as they are not blended with synthetic fibers like polyester; make sure to shred it finely and remove attachments like zippers and buttons.

SOURCES: EPA.govSMARTasnGoodwillGrist


How do you make use of clothing that’s too damaged to wear or donate? Please share your ideas in the comments.

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • Ruth A D. 7 minutes ago
    Why can't we donate points?
  • Duane W. 1 day ago
    It is too bad the locator doesn't work on the American Textile Recycling Services website.
  • Juli T. 2 months ago
    I've learned so much since using this app. I love it. I live in a household where the owners don't partake in recycling so I try my best to do what I can with things in other ways. I thought since there was no recycling here I couldn't contribute my part but because of this app it keeps teaching and showing me there are other ways
  • Cynthia P. 2 months ago
    So all the points I received ever since started using this "recycling" app and to learn more about recycling have disappeared. I have been recycling for a very long time. Now my City don't really recycle. I now watch as my trash and my recycling goes into the trash trucks together... smh
  • Julia P. 2 months ago
    The women's underwear brand, Knickey, will take your worn out undergarments and socks and give you a credit towards a free pair on their site.
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