Recycling your old clothes

Rags_by_Shaire_Productions_-bigger.jpgIt's a new season, and with it comes new styles, and new clothing. What can you do with your clothes to reduce waste going to landfill?

Clothing, shoes and fabrics in good condition can be swapped, donated or sold to someone else who can re-use them. You can also mend or alter your clothes to create a new look.

Did you know that you can also recycle your old textiles that are just too worn out for re-use? 

Textile recycling

Textile recyclers turn old clothing, shoes and fabrics into new products. Materials are sorted, cleaned and turned into industrial rags (called 'wipers'), or they're shredded down for stuffing or fibre recycling.  Textile recyclers usually pre-sort materials to separate any reusable clothing first - these are sent for resale.

In Toronto, collection boxes on street corners and parking lots operated by charities and businesses accept clothing and fabrics - reusable material is sent for resale and the rest is recycled. Major retailers like American Eagle Outfitters and H&M also now accept clothing for reuse or recycling.

What can cities do?

The City of Toronto doesn't have a coordinated textile recycling program (yet!), but other cities are taking steps to keep textiles from getting thrown out in landfills or incinerators.

San Francisco just started a city-wide textile program to coordinate the collection, reuse and recycling of unwanted clothing and shoes. The City is using new collection bins (situated near every apartment building) and coordinating existing clothing charities with the goal of reducing the estimated 39 million pounds of clothing sent to landfill each year. Clothes and shoes in good condition will be sorted for reuse, but worn out textiles will be recycled.

In Ontario, the town of Kawartha Lakes launched a door to door collection to recycle worn out clothing and fabrics that aren't suitable to be donated for reuse.


Here's our top list for what to do with your old clothing and fabrics:

Clothing_by_Deann_Barrera.jpgIn great condition:
1. Swap with a friend! Organize your own clothing swap, or attend an organized one (check out Swap Don't Shop on July 13)
2. Sell your old clothes for cash at a consignment shop, flea market or online (ebay or kijiji)
3. Donate to a charity - Goodwill and Salvation Army accept clothing donations to sell at low cost in community stores. Other charities also accept clothing - Dress for Success provides used business clothing for low-income women job seekers.

Sewing_Kit_by__arch190.jpgNeed some love:
4. Mend your clothes - grab a needle and thread or if you need some help? Local dry-cleaners also offer mending or altering services, or get free help from the folks at Repairathon!
5. Alter your clothes - turn a long sleeve shirt into a short sleeve summer top, or cut off some old jeans for shorts.
6. Turn your old clothes, sheets and fabrics into scraps for crafts.
7. Use old fabrics for rags - use rags for cleaning instead of disposable paper towels.

Too far gone:

While the City of Toronto doesn't operate textile recycling programs yet, there are some private recycling programs.
8. Charity clothing drop off bins - While these focus on reusable clothing, Textile Waste Diversion says that materials collected in its bins are recycled into industrial rags or fibres if not reused.
9. Store drop off bins - If you're in a shopping mall, American Eagle Outfitters and H&M - collect textiles for reuse or recycling in all Toronto stores - and both provide a voucher for a discount on your next purchase.

By redirecting your clothing to another use, you'll keep your clothes out of landfill and maybe get a great new wardrobe in the process!

Tell us about what you repaired, swapped or recycled on the Waste Free Challenge #4 - Think Twice Before You Buy.

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • Andrea Tang
    commented 2016-12-18 18:48:17 -0500
    Can anyone advise what I should do with leather shoes that are beyond repair and I don’t feel right about throwing it into the landfill? Where can I recycle it?