How to Sell, Donate or Recycle Your Old Clothes

If everyone in the U.S. recycled their clothing and textiles for one year instead of throwing them away, it would save 30.6 million metric tons of carbon emissions. That’s the same as taking all the cars in Los Angeles off the road for one year. So how can you keep clothes out of the landfill? Here are your best options:

Sell

Are your unwanted clothes still valuable? For-profit secondhand stores are a quick and easy way to cash in. In addition to selling locally, there are also national chains, including Buffalo Exchange, Plato’s Closet, Clothes Mentor and Once Upon a Child. There are also a host of websites and applications that will help you sell or swap your old threads with just a few clicks on your smartphone, including eBay, thredUP, swap.com, Poshmark and Tradesy.

Donate

If you think your clothes may not be new enough to sell, donating locally is an easy way to give your wardrobe future use. Check whether an organization takes only gently used items or items in any condition — they can easily be a one stop shop for all your old clothes. You have two choices when it comes to donating garments:

Non-profit organizations raise money for charitable causes. Goodwill, for example, uses the revenue from sales of donated clothing to fund job training programs for seniors, veterans and people with disabilities. Another benefit of this option is that your donation may be tax deductible. Goodwill has a PDF guide to help you estimate the value of your donation. Other national charities that accept clothing donations include The Salvation Army, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Vietnam Veterans of America and PlanetAid. If you want to know more about an organization before you donate, look it up on CharityWatch or Charity Navigator.

For-profit companies may or may not donate a portion of their profits. Some clothing retailers such as H&M, Levi Strauss & Co. and The North Face encourage customers to bring back old clothes from any brand to their retail locations, so they can be reused or recycled. There are also companies that use clothing collection bins, such as USAgain. These recycling companies have stirred up some controversy because consumers often assume their donations will benefit the needy. However, the clothing is often sold internationally, and only a small portion of sales, if any, fund charitable causes. Other for-profit clothing collectors include Savers, Community Recycling and American Textile Recycling Service.

Recycle

If your unwanted garments aren’t in good enough condition to be worn again, you can still keep them out of the landfill by recycling them. Many organizations that accept clothing for resale will also recycle clothes that are torn, stained or worn. Some major clothing recyclers include Goodwill, The Salvation Army, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Savers, Blue Jeans Go GreenAmerican Textile Recycling Service and USAgain.

Remember to Reduce

Another way you can help keep clothes out of the landfill is to consider buying secondhand. Many times secondhand clothes are new and unworn. The more we reduce our consumption in the first place, the less material we’re responsible for recycling.