End of Life Care for Textiles

How to recycle "unusable" fabrics and clothing

11/2/20233 min read

I’m going to be quick and to the point today:

No matter the condition of your used textiles, there are abundant landfill alternatives.

Proper end of life care for your worn-out underwear, holey socks and tired towels allows them to continue to provide value in the form of insulation, furniture stuffing, and even recycled fabrics.

In the coming months I’ll be expanding on the initiatives of a growing number of fashion brands to close the loop on their production cycle by offering consumers end of life options for their used clothing and soft home goods. I’ll dive deeper into the recycling process and innovative government programs around the world that focus on textile waste reduction. But before all that, I wanted to provide a very easy resource list that you can refer back to when you have a pile to dispose of.

Complete circularity begins with products designed for maximum use. But until we get there, knowing the options available to you is key. So here it is, a teaser of what’s to come, but also a great start if you find yourself in dire need of disposal sources. Enjoy – and as always, drop me a line if you have a resource to add to the list!

- Julie

At Home Collection (Pick-up services)

  • Just Porch It - Free, no contact fabric recycling in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, California and Missouri (!) Like a dream come true, you gather your clean, used but possibly stained textiles, place them in a bag, schedule a pick up and put it on your porch. They accept almost everything as long as it is dry and not moldy.

  • Ridwell - Starting at $14/month, this waste collection subscription service is an easy solution to many hard to recycle items including non-reusable textiles. You receive a 14x14x14” Ridwell bin and reusable bags to collect your stuff. Put the whole shebang on your porch and it gets collected every two weeks. They also have a partnership with Goodwill to make sure your threads are reused or recycled and their policy of transparency is encouraging.

  • Terra-Cycle - You order an empty box, fill it and then ship it back to them. A small Zero Waste Box™ is $136 (a bit expensive for a single consumer to shoulder, but it's very easy). Check out the reviews before you order your box. They are surprisingly helpful.

  • For Days - You've seen it on Instagram? For Days is "the first circular fashion brand". Through their Take Back Bag they collect, sort and recycle used garments, linens and more to keep fabrics out of landfills. You buy a bag online for $20, it arrives at your house, you fill it and send it back. From their website stats: 50% of all Take Back Bag items are downcycled into shoddy, rags & insulation, 45% are resold, and 5% are trashed. Not bad. And a bonus: When you buy a $20 Take Back Bag, you get a $20 credit for future circular fashion purchases through For Days.

Collection Sites

  • H&M - (I haven't visited an H&M in years, mainly because they have been one of the biggest producers of cheap, disposable clothing and therefore, landfill waste. To their credit, they are also becoming a force of change in the industry. So despite my earlier prejudices, I will be educating myself on the things this company has been doing really well...in a future blog post. ) H&M's in-store garment collection program has been operating since 2013: Take any unwanted clothes or textiles, by any brand and in any condition, to one of their stores. Hand in your bag of old clothes at the cash desk and receive a thank you voucher to use towards your next purchase.

  • North Face and Patagonia - Both of these outdoor companies (and others I'm sure) have a take back program where you can recycle/trade in their products and possibly get something in return, BUT they don't take brands other than their own. Still good, but not the focus of this resource list.

  • Madewell - Bring any old pair of jeans into a Madewell store and they send them to their recycling partner to turn into housing insulation. You get $20 off a new pair of jeans (exclusions apply).

  • Pioneer Wiping Cloth Company, 10707 N. Lombard Street Portland, OR 97203, 503-226-6057 - I found this one after using Metro's handy Find-a-Recycler tool. Pioneer prefers receiving large items that are primarily cotton, but call ahead if you have something else. Items should be at least 14" x 14" - t-shirts, sweatshirts, bedsheets, towels, etc. (Portland area only)

Hope this helps and happy up/down/recycling!

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