In the realm of decluttering, cleaning out your underwear drawer is a total must — there's nothing more annoying than having pairs of undies with worn out elastic, holes, or — gasp — period stains. And although simply disposing of them in the trash can is a seemingly easy way to get rid of old panties, it isn't sustainable, as textile waste makes up an ungodly portion of landfill trash, taking years to fully break down.
Although Goodwill and other thrift stores of the like probably won't accept your old pairs of panties, there are many organizations and companies that allow you to recycle and donate underwear.
Do your trash can a favor, and leave your panties out of it. Here are a few places that are here to help you recycle your old skivvies.
Subset, formerly known as Knickey
Subset, which was known as Knickey before rebranding in 2023, is an online sustainable lingerie brand. In partnership with SuperCircle, Subset recycles customers' underwear, bras, socks, and tights. The materials are recycled as secondary textiles, for things like insulation and mattress batting.
For free, you can download a shipping label. Stuff a bag or box with as many of the above items (in any condition) as you can fit, and mail it in. For every package recycled, you'll get a $15 credit toward your next Subset purchase.
Fab Scrap is a New York City-based nonprofit that strives to reduce fabric waste in New York and Philadelphia area landfills.
Fab Scrap will pickup your fabric scraps from your house in a truck, after you package it up in specific bags that Fab Scrap provides. Once the scraps make their way to the recycling warehouse in Queens, employees identify and sort the pieces by material, and remove any zippers or buttons. Certain materials will then be repurposed to create insulation, while others will be used to create carpet padding, or furniture lining.
USAgain has drop-off boxes (aka TreeMachines) nationwide for consumers to dump their old clothing (undies included). While some clothes are resold, others (such as worn underwear) are either recycled for insulation material, or upcycled for rags. As of 2023, the organization has clothed over 18 billion people since the company launched in 1999. Find your nearest TreeMachine on USAgain's website.
Planet Aid bins accept all clean men's, women's, and children's clothing, shoes, bedding, towels, and underwear. Each pair is redistributed to those in need in other countries across the globe.
Second Life by Parade
To participate, customers can go to Parade’s website and request a free biodegradable bag and prepaid shipping label. Once you receive the package, fill it with as many undies as you can (from any brand), and drop it in the mail. Everything received as part of the Second Life by Parade program is recycled into new items, such as bedding, furniture, and insulation, and in exchange for participating, you'll get a 20 percent off coupon for your next Parade purchase.
After creating a Hanky Panky rewards account, you can request a shipping label. Then, fill up any packaging you have on hand with your old underwear, and drop the package off at the post office. Items are then first finely shredded and fabric components are made into carpet padding, while metal materials are sent to metal recyclers.
You can also recycle clothing with Green Tree at many farmers markets around the New York area.
As you can see, there are so many amazing ways to give your old undies a second life instead of dumping them in the trash to become landfill waste. And if none of these options are feasible for you, we have good news — if your underwear is 100 percent cotton or silk, you can compost it. According to Martha Stewart, as long as you remove the elastic strap, it'll be good to go.
This article, originally published on Feb. 3, 2021, has been updated.