Donate Textiles and Clothing
The average American discards almost 100 pounds of textiles every year, with clothing making up a large percentage. That’s an increase of 69% since 2000.
Altogether, Americans generated 32 billion pounds of textile discards in 2015. Textiles make up around 6% of all municipal solid waste generated in the U.S. Tossing textiles in the trash unnecessarily fills our local landfills and wastes the resources that went into making them including vast amounts of water, energy, land and other resources.
In addition, reusing or recycling 2.3 million tons of clothing per year is equivalent of removing 1.3 million cars from the roads.
5 ways to reduce textile and clothing waste:
1. Swap, sell or donate your unwanted clothes
- Donate or trade clothes in your community. Offer unwanted clothes to neighbors through Buy Nothing groups or Facebook community groups. Participate in a community swap meet or host a clothing swap among your friends and family. From everyday items to special occasion outfits, you can save money while strengthening community connections and reducing your environmental footprint.
- Selling your unwanted clothes has never been easier! Explore garage sales or online options like ThredUp, Poshmark, Swap.com, E-bay or Facebook Marketplace.
- Apps like OfferUp, LetGo and Nextdoor offer a local way to connect with neighbors while keeping usable clothing and textiles out of the landfill.
2. Buy vintage and rent special occasion items
- Buying clothing secondhand can save you money, reduce waste, and support charitable causes.
- Several companies will let you rent every day or special occasion items including designer items. Beware of subscription services that charge you if you don’t return the clothes on time. You could end up owning more when your intention was to own less!
3. Reuse and Repair
- The internet is full of tutorials on how to ‘upcycle’ your unwanted items.
- Get creative! T-shirts can become reusable bags, pillow covers, dog toys, or be completely transformed into a new garment with something as simple as a pair of scissors.
- Men’s shirts can become kids’ dresses.
- Turn vintage or sentimental clothing, from concert or marathon t-shirts or even old jeans, into a quilt.
- Extend the life of a stained or discolored item with dyes, bleach, dip-dye methods, patches or embroidery.
- Learn how to remove different kinds of stains and make small clothing repairs like mending holes or reattaching buttons. You can also have clothes professionally altered and even re-sole your shoes to extend their life.
- In case you’re not into DIY, search the “Repair” database on WasteFreeSD.org to find convenient locations to fix just about anything.
4. Donate and Recycle
- Take unwanted clothing and textiles, including old towels, sheets and bedding to thrift stores. Contrary to popular belief, almost all textile donations are welcomed by larger thrift stores, even single shoes and socks. This includes items that are stained, ripped, missing buttons or have broken zippers. Please do not donate any items that are wet or moldy or items contaminated with automotive chemicals, paint, pesticides, bodily fluids or hazardous substances. Clothing and other textiles for recycling should be placed in a clear plastic bag with "For Recycling Only" written on the bag.
- What happens to donated
- 95% of all used clothing is recyclable with the remaining 5% being unusable due to mildew or other contamination.
- About 45% of donated textiles are reused and sold as secondhand apparel, either in the U.S. or around the world.
- 30% of donated textiles are ‘down-cycled’ into cleaning rags.
- 20% of donated textiles are recycled - broken down into their basic fiber components – before being remanufactured into new products like home insulation, stuffing for furniture, pet bedding and much more.
- To find a thrift store near you, visit WasteFreeSD.org, our online recycling, reuse and repair database.