Are you wondering what you can do with used clothes that you cannot sell or donate anymore? You might want to get rid of them, but throwing them in the trash isn't the responsible thing to do.
With unwearable clothes and shoes, you can repurpose, upcycle or recycle them. You can drop them off at a local recycling center, donate them to animal shelters, or compost them if they are biodegradable.
Used clothing and other textile wastes are piling up in landfills at an alarming rate. Don't put unwearable clothes you cannot use anymore in the garbage bin. It's highly detrimental to the environment and ecosystems.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that 16.9 million tons of used textile wastes are generated each year in the United States. That amount has doubled over the last 20 years.
As a consumer, you have the power to drive positive change in the world. Even small steps such as responsibly discarding unwearable clothes help build a more sustainable future.
Here are some easy things you can do to get rid of old clothes and shoes you cannot use anymore without damaging the environment.
1. Repair and reuse
You can wear the fashion pieces in your closet longer if you take good care of them. You can save money, time, and resources if you wear your clothes longer, especially if they still fit you and are in good condition.
Take good care of your clothes to ensure that you can reuse them often:
- Buy high-quality clothing,
- Wash them in lower temperatures,
- Hang them to dry,
- Try to remove stains right away.
Whenever possible, repair and reuse your clothes instead of buying new ones. Try to restore the clothes and shoes you think are unwearable before getting rid of them.
Make your clothes last longer and repair them to a possible extent. It helps the planet tremendously, and in the long run, it can even save you a lot of money.
It becomes a lot easier to do so once you quit fast fashion for higher quality pieces. Cheap and trendy clothes sold in high-street stores often are disposable and aren't worth repairing.
Their garment construction is so bad, and new items are so affordable. Most people don't bother fixing broken buckles, holes, loose threads, missing buttons, or snagging zippers.
Taking better care of the clothes you have makes a huge difference in building a more sustainable fashion future. If you can't repair them yourself, find local tailors and cobblers and develop good relationships with them.
But you can also learn how to sew and do it yourself. Instead of buying a new replacement immediately, try to fix things first.
2. Repurpose and upcycle
You can repurpose and upcycle unwearable clothes, shoes, bags, and accessories. By cutting and sewing used garments and other textiles, you can create new items of higher value.
Upcycling gives a new purpose to old items in your closet by creating something exceptional and unique. You preserve the environment by upcycling pre-loved clothes and making something useful, instead of throwing them away.
Many upcoming apparel brands and designers use upcycling to reduce clothing waste and create new fashion items that are more beneficial and worthwhile.
As a fashion lover, you can also upcycle old items in your wardrobe that you don't wear anymore. Use parts of or the entire old garment to make something valuable.
You can upcycle unwearable clothes and shoes at home without extra machinery and save resources. You can give old textiles an extended life and wear them for a long time.
You can even repurpose old items and create something else out of them. Shred unwearable clothes and other textiles into insulation materials, yarn, carpet padding, and other uses. Old garments can make useful re-usable bags and cleaning rags.
3. Donate unwearable clothes
You might still be able to donate some of the clothes you don't wear to charitable organizations. Apparel, footwear, accessories, and small items are the easiest to donate.
Be sure to contact the charity or nonprofit organization of your choice beforehand to ask them what kind of item they accept.
You can drop off clothes at homeless and women's shelters, family service agencies, immigrant support groups, and churches. Blankets, towels, and linens can help animal shelters in your local area as well.
Many organizations appreciate your contributions and welcome them as they can potentially do a lot of good. They may sell your clothing contributions and put a portion of their profits to use.
Many fantastic charities even pick up your donations for free at your house, including clothes, appliances, furniture, household items, books, toys, and more.
4. Recycle and compost
You can keep unwearable clothes and shoes out of landfills by recycling or composting them. It's a simple and environmentally friendly alternative to throwing them in the trash.
You can use textile recycling programs from textile businesses or organizations near you. Or visit RecycleNow to find out what you can recycle at home or in your local area.
Many towns, councils, cities, fashion brands, and retailers have programs to collect, recycle, and upcycle used clothing. And many organizations have direct relationships with textile recyclers such as:
- American Textile Recycling Service
- Blue Jeans Go Green
- Soles 4 Souls
- Bra Recycling
And many fashion brands have take-back programs in place to reuse your old clothes or get them recycled, including Marks & Spencer, Levi's, H&M, C&A, Uniqlo, Patagonia, The North Face, Reebok, Nike, Adidas, PACT, People Tree, Stella McCartney, Eileen Fisher, and many more.
If your unwearable clothes and shoes are biodegradable, you can also compost them directly.
Biodegradable fashion contains organic and natural fabrics that degrade in a short time without endangering ecosystems or human health.
Here are some biodegradable fabrics that you can easily compost at home:
- Organic cotton
These eco-friendly materials decompose in a short time in natural environments, between a few days to a few weeks. They make fantastic options to build a sustainable and eco-conscious wardrobe.
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.