So, you’ve recently gone through a closet purge and are left with the task of finding a new home for all your unused and unwanted garments. This stage might seem like a challenge at first especially when trying to maximize the potential that your items will be of good use. Figuring out what to do with unwanted clothing can be a bit puzzling but stay calm, we’ve got you covered! Before loading your donation items into trash bags and setting them on course for the nearest landfill, I caution you to think otherwise. More than 15 million tons of used textile waste is generated each year in the United States and those figures have doubled over the last 20 years. Nearly 100% of textile and clothing are recyclable but the average American throws away approximately 80lbs of used clothing per person per year. Due to greenhouse gas emissions, landfills are no place for unwanted clothing. Textiles do not easily degrade under landfill conditions due to the lack of sunlight and oxygen. Instead of ditching your undesirables into the closest dump, here are a few guidelines to help steer you in the right direction.
Guidelines for Getting Rid of Unwanted Clothes
1. Clothes donated must be clean and wearable. You should avoid giving away clothes in a state that in less than desirable to wear. Take the time to wash all the items that you plan on donating. It helps charity shops sort through your items with a bit more ease and improve the likelihood of your items being sold and not discarded as rags.
2. If you want your clothing to have a positive impact, start by vetting charity shops and doing your research before dropping off unwanted garments. Websites such as Charity Watch, Charity Navigator, or the BBB’s Give.org assess and rank charities and are a great resource for learning about a charity’s mission and how it uses the money raised through the sale of used clothes.
3. Start locally and give directly to those in need in your area. Churches, schools, homeless shelters, and other local organizations often host clothing drives and are an opportunity to provide aid to people in your community. Make sure to ask what is needed prior to dropping off your donations. You don’t want to bombard these organizations with a bunch of unwanted items.
4. Hosting a clothing swap is another fun and engaging way to give away clothes. You can have a social event inviting friends, family or colleagues to bring their unwanted item. Not only is this good for you but it encourages others to do their own closet purge and find new homes for their donations
5. If you have items that are too worn to be donated, major charity shops such as Goodwill have textile recycling programs and accept clothes in any condition. Call ahead to find out if thrift stores in your area have a textile recycling program and donate your tattered garments to places like these.
6. In-store garment collection programs are a new initiative slowly gaining popularity to combat fast fashion. Stores such as H&M, Zara, and Levi’s have all enacted some form of recycling programs in recent years while companies such as Patagonia accept all their products back for recycling. Though the numbers are unclear of how much fast fashion brands such as H&M and Zara are using recycled textiles to make new clothes, it is a step in the right direction to offer consumers more options.
7. States such as California, Tennessee, Florida, and New York have some form of textile recycling programs for residents and many more are following suit. These efforts make the process of getting rid of unwanted garments far more accessible through collection bins or curbside pickup for used clothes. If your area doesn’t have programs like these, now is your chance to actively get involved! You can partner with schools and local businesses to start some form of collection programs or through lobbying and calling or writing city officials. It is intimidating at first to start something locally but keep in mind your actions help others in the grand scheme of things. The recycling of textile has been called the next frontier for cities looking to reduce solid waste, so this is a great opportunity to get your city ahead of the game and set the precedent for others to follow suit
There is no one size fits all solution to consciously get rid of unwanted clothes. No matter whether you donate to a charity, thrift store, garment collection programs, or anywhere else, your clothing is likely going to end up in the global secondhand clothing trade or downcycled rather than recycled in the traditional sense. Less than 1 percent of clothing recycled is broken down and turned back into new clothes, so we still have a long way to go in getting those figures up.
By reducing the amount of textile and clothing that winds up in landfills and going through more responsibly sound options, we can increase demand for sustainable options to be widely available while cutting down on the number of clothes in landfills.
Have some more tips on how you get rid of unwanted clothes? Share your experience and tips with us below in the comments!