Don't Throw Away Old Stuffed Animals — Here's How to Donate and Recycle Them

Donating a stuffed animal is a great way to pay it forward.

Jamie Bichelman - Author

Jun. 25 2024, Published 4:30 p.m. ET

A group of teddy bears are pictured in a row in front of a yellow background,
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Giving a second life to cherished things is a noble deed and contributes to a low-impact or zero-waste lifestyle for both giver and receiver. If you have stuffed animals that are in good condition and suitable for donation, as well as stuffed animals in need of repair (or beyond the point of repair), you may be wondering how you can positively impact a stranger's life and donate your stuffie.

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After all, an estimate in 2022 pegged roughly 80 percent of all toys with the fate of becoming eventual landfill fodder. Fortunately, passing along a stuffie is simple to do. We'll guide you through the process.

A brown box labeled "donations" contains multiple stuffed animals.
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How to donate stuffed animals:

The Virginia-based Gleaning For The World has a program called The Teddy Bear Brigade, which has thus far rehomed over 575,000 stuffed animals in the U.S. and across 30 countries.

Teddy bears and other stuffed animals may provide some sense of emotional support to children. This can be especially helpful for some medical patients, those displaced due to war or weather events, and those in other situations where emotional support is needed.

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A smiling volunteer gives a girl a teddy bear with her smiling family beside her.
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Stuffed Animals For Emergencies (SAFE) is another nonprofit that rehomes stuffed animals. Chapter members currently reside across Florida, Missouri, and Wisconsin, and you can contact them here to coordinate a stuffie donation. You can also get involved and host a SAFE stuffed animal drive.

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According to The Spruce, there are still other ways to donate your stuffed animals. You can call your local hospitals, doctor's offices, daycare centers, shelters, and police and fire departments to see if they accept stuffed animal donations for families in need. You can also give away your stuffed animals on your local Buy Nothing group on Facebook, or donate them at a thrift store.

Three smiling volunteer workers inspect donations and items for recycling, including a large white bear.
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How to recycle old stuffed animals:

According to the Paris-based stuffed animal brand La Pelucherie, over 8 million stuffed animals have reached the point of becoming waste, many of which are past the point of being suitable for donation. Depending on the materials used to make the stuffed animal, they may, however, be eligible for recycling.

Some fabric and textile recycling companies may accept stuffed animals — just ask.

For those with the financial means to do so, TerraCycle is a highly-rated recycling company that offers a zero-waste box specifically designed to recycle stuffed animals. TerraCycle sells small, medium, and large boxes for your stuffed animals in need of recycling, and upon receiving your shipment, TerraCycle will sort the raw materials before selling them to a manufacturing company for their next use.

Some fabric and textile recycling companies may also accept stuffed animals — just ask.

If a specialized recycling center refuses your old stuffed animals, you can upcycle and repurpose them. La Pelucherie says you can use a stuffed animal to: create a plush bag; utilize the cushioning to bolster your couch cushions; create wall art and other decorations with the old stuffed animals; replace the stuffing with heavy material like sand to create an adorable doorstop; or make slippers with some crafty knowhow.

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