Candid and sensible green living advice since 1999.
December 13th, 2013
Posted in: Recycling

How to recycle old denim and other torn, worn and stained clothing

Blue Denim JeansI can’t stand throwing stuff away. I’ll stockpile things in my garage (to a point) confident that eventually I’ll discover a way to recycle or repurpose them. Case in point, I have a growing pile of torn denim jeans that may be beyond repair, but they have great potential for a second life. In fact, 95 percent of worn or torn textiles can be recycled, according to the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textile Association. But while donating wearable clothing is easy, finding recycling solutions for unwearable clothing has proven more difficult. Difficult maybe, but something we should strive for, because the EPA estimates that the average person throws away 70 lbs of clothing per year. If everyone recycled just 50 percent of their old clothing instead, we would keep 10.5 billion pounds of unnecessary waste out of landfills each year!

Post consumer denim recycling solutions have come and gone, and I always seemed to be looking when solutions had dried up. But today I was fortunate to find an organization ready and willing to take my scrappy denim! Bluejeansgogreen.org accepts used denim by mail and recycles it into UltraTouch™ Denim Insulation. Mail your unrepairable denim to:
Blue Jeans Go Green™
Denim Recycling Program
431 North 47th Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85043

And while we’re on the subject of recycling unwearable wearables, here are some more resources:

Zkano.com accepts “past-their-prime” socks which are then recycled by their parent company Emi-G Knitting. Send your holey socks to:
Emi-G Knitting
Attention: Zkano Recycles Program
1715 Airport Road
Ft Payne, AL 35968

Reuse-A-Shoe, started by Nike, accepts worn-out athletic shoes and reclaims valuable materials from them to make Nike Grind, a material used in sport surfaces. Find a store that accepts your old tennies at http://www.nike.com/us/en_us/sl/store-locator?preFilter=RE

For everything else, the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textile Association (SMART) partners with charities, thrift stores, and recycling businesses to increase the number of drop-off locations for used textiles in any condition (worn, torn or stained is okay) as long as they are clean and dry. Unwearable clothing and unusable household textiles are either repurposed as rags or recycled into its basic fiber content. Unfortunately, the SMARTasn.org website does not provide a search tool for easily finding drop off locations. They simply route you to Earth911.com where a search for clothing recyclers produces a list, but the results don’t specify which businesses will accept textiles in poor condition. So call ahead.

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2 Comments »

  1. Thanks for the references. I just made snakes out of old jeans to block cold air by the doors. I have also made purses,
    Garden aprons, pot holders and such with old jeans. Very sturdy fabric!

    Comment by Donna — December 13, 2013 @ 6:19 pm

  2. Donna, That’s fantastic! Would you be willing to send me a picture of your draft snakes and other projects? I’d love to share them with my Facebook fans!

    Comment by admin — December 13, 2013 @ 10:55 pm

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