how to recycle your old clothes and shoes

How to Recycle Your Old Clothes and Shoes

how to recycle your old clothes and shoes

Have you ever cleaned out your closet and wondered what to do with a pile of clothes and shoes you no longer wear? While tossing them might seem like the easiest option, there’s a more sustainable solution: textile recycling.

Textile waste is a growing environmental concern, but the good news is that by giving your unwanted clothes and shoes a second life, you can make a positive impact.

This blog will explore the importance of textile recycling and how you can easily participate in this eco-friendly practice.

We’ll discuss the environmental impact of the clothing industry and show you how to utilize clothes recycling bins to turn your unwanted garments into something new.

What is Textile Recycling?

Textile recycling involves the collection of old textiles, which are then given a new life through reuse or material recovery. Moreover, waste can be diverted from landfills, and new products can be created from recycled fibers through participation in textile recycling.

The importance of textile recycling lies in its role in reducing the environmental impact of the fashion industry. By recycling old clothes, the demand for virgin materials is lowered, resources are conserved, and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.

Methods to Recycle Old Clothes and Shoes

There are several ways to ensure your unwanted clothes and shoes don’t end up in landfills. Here’s a breakdown of the most popular methods:


Old clothes and shoes can be donated to charities, shelters, and community organizations. Donation centers are often found at local non-profits, thrift stores, and religious institutions.

The benefits of donating include helping those in need, reducing waste, and supporting charitable causes.

Clothes Recycling Bins

Clothes recycling bins are commonly located at recycling centers, parking lots, and retail stores. To use them, simply place clean and dry items inside.

These bins typically accept clothing, shoes, linens, and accessories. Websites like Recycle Now can help you locate bins in your area.


Old clothes and shoes can be creatively repurposed through upcycling. DIY projects like turning old jeans into bags, t-shirts into quilts, or shoes into planters are popular.

Upcycling extends the life of items and reduces waste.

Retailer Programs

Many brands offer recycling programs where customers can return old clothes and shoes. Participating in these programs often involves bringing items to the store or mailing them in, sometimes in exchange for discounts on future purchases.

Brands like H&M, Patagonia, and Nike have well-known recycling initiatives.

Steps to Prepare Your Clothes and Shoes for Recycling

Before tossing your unwanted clothes and shoes into a donation bin or recycling container, take a few minutes to prepare them for their next life. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Sorting Items

Begin by sorting your items to determine what can and cannot be recycled. Clothes that are stained, torn, or worn out are generally suitable for recycling, while those in good condition may be better suited for donation.

Non-recyclable items include those heavily soiled with oil or chemicals and items like undergarments that are typically not accepted.

Tip: Check the care label on your clothes for any recycling symbols that might indicate specific instructions.

Cleaning and Repairing

Before recycling, ensure that all items are clean and dry. Launder clothes and shoes to remove any dirt or odors.

If possible, repair minor damages such as sewing small tears or reattaching loose buttons, as this makes the recycling process more efficient.

Removing Non-Recyclable Parts

Remove non-recyclable parts from your items, such as buttons, zippers, and metal fasteners. These components can interfere with the recycling process.

Cut them off or carefully remove them to ensure only recyclable materials are left.

Tip: Save the removed buttons, zippers, and embellishments for future upcycling projects!

What Happens to Recycled Textiles?

Recycled textiles undergo a comprehensive process, starting with collection and sorting based on material type and condition. Usable items are often resold or donated, while unsuitable textiles are shredded into fibers.

These fibers are then cleaned and processed into yarns or fabrics, which can be used to create a wide range of new products, such as clothing, insulation, and industrial materials. Products made from recycled textiles include new garments, home insulation materials, carpet padding, and automotive interiors.

Recycled fibers also contribute to the production of non-woven fabrics used in various applications like cleaning cloths and industrial filters. This not only reduces reliance on virgin materials but also creates jobs and fosters innovation in sustainable textile technologies.

Common obstacles in textile recycling

Common obstacles in textile recycling include contamination of materials, lack of consumer awareness, and insufficient infrastructure for collection and processing.

Contaminated textiles disrupt the recycling process, and many consumers are unaware of proper recycling practices. Additionally, some regions lack adequate facilities for effective textile collection and recycling.

To ensure responsible recycling, follow local guidelines, clean and dry items before recycling, and support certified recycling programs.

Fast fashion exacerbates recycling challenges due to its high turnover and use of synthetic fibers, which are difficult to recycle and contribute to environmental pollution.

Practical Tips for Sustainable Fashion Choices

When aiming for sustainable fashion, focus on reducing, reusing, and recycling effectively.

  • Opt for quality garments and timeless styles that withstand trends, reducing the need for frequent purchases.
  • Extend the life of your clothes by donating or selling them when no longer needed or creatively repurposing them into new items.
  • Utilize clothing recycling programs or centers to dispose of old or damaged garments properly, ensuring materials are repurposed rather than discarded.

Building a Sustainable Wardrobe

When aiming to build a sustainable wardrobe, invest in quality, do secondhand shopping, and choose sustainable fabrics effectively.

  • Choose well-made garments that last longer and resist the urge to buy cheap, fast fashion items.
  • Explore thrift stores, consignment shops, or online resale platforms for unique finds that reduce environmental impact.
  • Opt for fabrics like organic cotton, hemp, or recycled materials, which have a lower environmental footprint than conventional materials.

Encouragement to Adopt Sustainable Fashion Habits

Embrace sustainable fashion habits by making conscious choices in clothing purchases and care.

  • Learn about sustainable fashion practices, including the environmental and social impacts of clothing production.
  • Research brands with transparent supply chains and commitments to fair labor practices and prioritize purchasing from them.
  • Share your knowledge and experiences with friends and family to encourage others to make sustainable fashion choices and reduce overall consumption.


Embracing sustainable fashion involves reducing consumption, creatively reusing items, and responsibly recycling. To make a meaningful impact, start by sorting and preparing your old clothes and shoes for recycling. Take action today to recycle your old clothes and shoes—a simple step with significant benefits for the environment and society.

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