Cleaning out your closet for spring? Old clothes have always posed a bit of a challenge. They're not as easy to recycle as other materials, and sometimes they are in good condition but just not to your liking anymore. But not all cast-offs are destined for the trash. In fact, anything you can do to avoid landfilling an item will be of help to your community and the Earth in general.
Not only do landfills contribute to global warming by releasing harmful greenhouse gasses, but they also pollute the local land, water, and air with hazardous chemicals. Luckily, there is actually quite a lot you could do with your old garments instead of throwing them away. Here are a few ideas you might find helpful.
Yes, old clothes might not be the first thing to come to mind when thinking about composting, probably not even the second or third. However, according to RecycleBank, clothing made of natural fiber can be great compost material. Look for garments that are made of pure wool, cotton, silk, or linen that are too old or damaged to donate, and cut them up into small pieces to speed up the composting process.
Make sure to remove all plastic buttons and metal zippers before adding the fabric to your compost pile. It’s also good to check for stains from non-compostable materials like motor oil or paint. If you’re generally new to composting and would like to learn more about it check out our previous article Make a Compost in 6 Easy Steps.
If you have some old t-shirts that are too damaged to pass on or donate, one practical way to upcycle them is turning them into cleaning rags. Simply cut the fabric into whichever size square you want, and start using those pieces for cleaning and dusting your home.
Recycled wiping cloths have several benefits: they are more absorbent and softer to the touch. A broken-in rag will do a better job in certain cleaning tasks. Not to mention, you will save money and reuse otherwise destroyed items.
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While clothes cannot be tossed into recycling bins, they can certainly be recycled in other ways. Search for clothing recycling bins in your area where you can drop off your garments anytime for free. Companies like American Textile Recycling Services and many others collect donations from drop-off locations and sort through everything. According to zero waste manager Lauren Olson, many of these donations are sent abroad to regions such as African and Asia, where they are resold. To find such a bin near you, you can check on Recycle Now.
There are also some Goodwill and Salvation Army donation spots where you can drop off your clothes, and they will get them recycled for you. The companies get money from textile recyclers for the old garments, which goes towards charities.
If you have some old clothes which are in good condition but don’t fit your style anymore, consider swapping them! See if those closest to you -friends, family, or flatmates - are up for exchanging a few items of their own. That way you both pass on your unneeded clothes and get some exciting new ones for free.
Swapping will be easiest to do with those you already live with or are in a social bubble with. If the Covid-19 restrictions in your area permit it, you could also hold a larger, outdoor meetup and get everyone to bring a few bits along.
Animal shelters often use clothes, towels, or any old textile for the animals they have in their care. The cloth is used to clean, make beds and blankets and help make the shelter feel more like home to the animals. Consider bringing old sweaters and t-shirts, which aren’t in good condition, to help a fluffy friend in need.
If you happen to own a pet, you can use the old clothes for their bedding too, of course.
The fastest way to repurpose old socks is by using them as room air fresheners. Yes, you read right. It sounds strange but bear with us. You can run the socks through the laundry, then fill them up with whatever scent makes your day, be it lavender or vanilla. Once you close up the ends, just place the sock into a corner of your cabinet of shoes and let it work. Trust us. You will not be disappointed.
Your no longer needed garbs can have a new life in your home beyond becoming a cleaning rag or bedding for your pet. In fact, the upcycling options are endless. An old T-shirt can become a pillow cover. You could also use the fabric to make a DIY face mask, or even a quilt out of cast-off T-shirts, pajamas, and other materials.
Old garments can also easily be turned into reusable tote bags for shopping, headbands, or a knitted sleeve for a coffee mug. As we said, the options really are plentiful. For some more inspiration on upcycling clothes take a look at this video: 10 Handy Ways to Repurpose Old Clothes
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