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Textile recycling: 3 reuse options for fashion and fabrics

Clothing donations have long been a key part of our spring cleaning ritual, but textile recycling as a movement is just starting to take hold.

Average joes to fashionistas and even the fashion industry at large are jumping on board with companies offering coupons for clothing trade-ins and designers taking old pieces and making them new. In India and Japan, fashion designers are inventing and re-inventing recycling techniques to reinvigorate local fashion trends.

Other fashion brands have re-imagined the little black dress by dying and re-cutting vintage wear and celebrities are beginning to embrace red carpet ready clothing made from sustainable materials. From Emma Watson’s Met Gala dress made from recycled plastic to a host of eco-fashions worn on the Oscar’s red carpet this year, it has become apparent that upcycling textiles is most definitely “the trend.”

So to buy into the fad (and help the planet at the same time) here’s a step by step guide to textile recycling:

Assess “the situation”

The first thing you need to know is that textiles refer to much more than just clothes. The word “textiles” describes anything made of cloth or woven fabric, including:

  • Clothing
  • Bedding
  • Curtains
  • Towels
  • Stuffed animals
  • Backpacks
  • Shoes
  • Some handbags

And to begin the textile recycling process, start by assessing the condition of the fabric. This will help you determine what options are available to you. And here are your options:

1. Shred it

  • If the textile is too stained or torn to be reused or repurposed, it can still be cut into strips and used to stuff pillows or stuffed animals, provide soundproof insulation or used as a cleaning rag.  If the stain is chemical-based or a degradable organic substance and can’t be removed, then throw it away.

2. Donate, swap or sell it

  • Outgrown but still wearable clothing can be passed on to a younger sibling, friend or neighbor.
  • Search the phone book or online for local consignment shops, thrift stores/second hand stores, shelters, and charities to see if any of them take unwanted textiles. Some places will even pay for your old but usable textiles or offer store credit so you can trade them for something more useful to you.
  • Depending on the services available in your area, charities may offer to collect your textiles at curbside or instruct you to drop them off at a retail location or collection box. You can also search online for organizations that accept donations by mail.
  • Swap with a friend.
  • Sell them at flea markets or online using sites such as Kijiji or Craigslist.

3. Fix or transform it

  • Mend old textiles and keep using them if possible, instead of throwing them away.
  • Textile pieces can be used to make crafts, such as cushion covers, teapot cosies, laptop covers, leg warmers, quilts, new accessories (i.e. woven scarves, socks, and hats) and so much more.
  • If you have old linens, towels or blankets, contact your local SPCA or animal shelter; they may be able to reuse them as animal bedding.

More textile recycling

If threadcycling’s your thing, and it’s something you want to do more of, feel free to download the Recycle Coach app. If your city is a member of our network, we can connect you to local drop-off locations for all your used threads.

1 Comment

  1. Florida Loriu

    September 24, 2021 at 5:12 am

    Nice and helpful article! Donate or sell discarded apparel and textiles for reuse and recycling. Sell your gently used clothes, accessories, and footwear in an online resale marketplace. SwagCycle is focused on managing the life cycle of branded merchandise. They recycle companies’ branded merchandise items.

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