How to Keep Your Old Clothes Out of the Landfill


If everyone in the U.S. kept their clothing and textiles out of the landfill for one year, it would save the equivalent of nearly 31 million metric tons of carbon emissions. That’s the same as taking all the cars in Los Angeles off the road for a year. So how can you do it? Here are your options:


Are your unwanted clothes still valuable? For-profit secondhand stores are a quick and easy way to cash in. There are also a host of websites and applications that will help you sell or swap your old threads with just a few clicks on your smartphone, including eBaythredUPswap.comPoshmark and Tradesy.


If you think your clothes may not be new enough to sell, donating locally is an easy way to give your wardrobe future use. Check whether an organization takes only gently used items or items in any condition—they can easily be a one stop shop for all your old clothes. You have two choices when it comes to donating garments:

Non-profit organizations raise money for charitable causes. Goodwill, for example, uses the revenue from sales of donated clothing to fund job training programs for seniors, veterans and people with disabilities. Another benefit of this option is that your donation may be tax deductible. Goodwill has a PDF guide to help you estimate the value of your donation. Other national charities that accept clothing donations include The Salvation Army, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Vietnam Veterans of America and PlanetAid. If you want to know more about an organization before you donate, look it up on CharityWatch or Charity Navigator.

For-profit companies may or may not donate a portion of their profits. ThredUp will donate $5 to a charity of your choice when you donate old clothing to them. Some clothing retailers such as H&M, Levi Strauss & Co. and The North Face encourage customers to bring back old clothes from any brand to their retail locations, so they can be reused or recycled. There are also companies that use clothing collection bins, such as USAgain. These recycling companies have stirred up some controversy because consumers often assume their donations will benefit the needy. However, the clothing is often sold internationally, and only a small portion of sales, if any, fund charitable causes. Other for-profit clothing collectors include Savers, Community Recycling and American Textile Recycling Service.

Recycle — But Not at the Curb

Sometimes clothes get stained, ripped or just plain worn out, and they can’t be sold or donated. If your unwanted garments can’t be worn again, you can still keep them out of the landfill by recycling them. However, you can’t recycle them curbside. Why? They get tangled up in recycling machinery and damage it. But you can still recycle them. Here’s how:

Give clothes in poor condition to organizations that have direct relationships with textile recyclers. Some major clothing recyclers include Goodwill, The Salvation Army, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Savers, Blue Jeans Go GreenAmerican Textile Recycling Service and USAgain. Many organizations that accept clothing for resale will also recycle clothes that are torn, stained or worn.

Remember to Reduce

Another way you can help keep clothes out of the landfill is to consider buying secondhand. Many times secondhand clothes are new and unworn. The more we reduce our consumption in the first place, the less material we’re responsible for recycling.