If your closet is anything like mine, it’s full of things you should probably toss.
I’ve got embarrassing shirts that no longer fit, socks with gaping holes (which I still wear), and bulky sweatpants that never see the light of day (and should never leave my apartment).
This week, Fast Company brought up the issue of clothing in our garbage. It’s estimated over 10 million tons of textiles were sent to landfills in 2015 and just 14.2% of all shoes and clothes were recycled that year, according to the EPA.
With the recycling industry in flux, the rules surrounding recycling plastic aren’t always a given. For one, you can’t recycle plastic bags or straws and now black plastic is even becoming a problem. How will we ever know the right way to recycle?
Why are we so terrible at recycling our t-shirts and jeans? For one, not all recycling facilities accept clothing. Inevitably, we donate those clothes to stores like Goodwill or Salvation Army, which if unsold, end up in the trash anyway (which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t donate them, just that not everything you give will find a home).
Clothing often can’t be recycled back into clothing either. Instead, it’s down-cycled into products like rags or used in insulation (and for those personally attached to their clothing, knowing your wedding dress might be used as a cleaning rag would be a mighty hurdle to jump).
But how can we get rid of our used clothing? Well, turns out, there are a number of solutions to your closet problem if your recycling facility doesn’t accept textiles.
Find a drop-off location
Using Planet Ark's recycling locator, or SCR Group's recycling directory, you can find a nearby charity that will accept and reuse your old clothes. Some retailers will have their own recycling programs or initiatives as well. Zara has container bins at selected stores for recycling, as does H&M.
Bring your unwanted shoes to any Nike or Converse store and drop them off in a collection bin. They’ll recycle them into everything from footwear to actual running tracks and playgrounds.
Have your recycling picked up
If you can't physically get your unloved clothes to a recycling bin, there's Clothing Cleanup. It's an online service that lets you book 24 hours in advance for someone to come by your place, where they'll accept a certain range of clothes in 1kg or 6kg garbage bags.
Donate them for reuse
Though it’s not exactly recycling, reuse is just as important when it comes to being green. The Co-op publishing group will buyback certain unused university textbooks, and you can enter the ISBN here to see how much they're worth.
There's also Toy Libraries, a charity that lets people borrow used toys and educational items so families and their little kids. WorkVentures is a NSW service that lets companies and individuals donate laptops, tablets or computers, which are then refreshed to ensure disadvantaged Australians have access to affordable computers.