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Responsible Textile Recycling

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

Textile waste is an area that can be really frustrating - yes, donating gently used and still wearable clothes to friends and family, thrift stores or crisis centers IS wonderful. But what about the shirt that got a hole in it when you got caught on the corner of a file cabinet? What about the well-loved sock that has a hole in the sole or lost its other half forever ago? What about sheets, comforters, and worn out family-heirloom blankets that you know aren't good enough to donate but you can't bear to throw away? When donating and reusing aren't always available, it may surprise you to learn that there are options for recycling your textiles instead!

First, what is a "textile"? The word textile comes from the Latin word, textilis, for "woven fabric.” A textile is something made by knitting, weaving, or crocheting fibers together. Textiles are made from natural (i.e. wool, cotton, silk) or synthetic fibers (i.e. polyester, spandex). Typical articles of clothing may come to mind when thinking of the word textile, but carpeting, rugs, some furniture, blankets, linens, shoes, tents, nets, ropes, burlap and so much more are also textiles. The variety of materials and components can make proper recycling or disposal of these household products challenging. However, with more than 11 million tons of textiles going to landfill each year, 5% of our U.S. landfills are textiles gone to waste.1

It is very important to first note that textiles - especially clothing, ropes, bedding, and tarps - are NOT accepted in Winnebago County's curbside recycling program, or any curbside program across the Tri-County Recycling system. Please do not attempt to recycle any clothing or other fabric in your curbside recycling cart or dumpster. Instead, choose source reduction, reuse, repair and donation over recycling all items whenever possible. If your items are in good condition, consider visiting your local thrift store with a bag for donation.

If your items are too worn to be donated, here are some other sustainable options to try:

For any / all / generic brands:

Nike's Reuse-a-shoe program: most Nike stores will accept any brand of athletic sneakers for recycling. Check with your local Nike store for more information.

H&M's Close the Loop program: bring any unwanted clothes or textiles, by any brand and in any condition, to an H&M store near you.

RETOLD Recycling - an easy & convenient mail-in service for recycling your unwanted clothes and household textiles. #nolandfill

For Days - offering a Take Back Bag to start a circular revolution and end fashion waste.

Thousand Fell takes it all - sneakers, clothing, old bedding, linens and towels. You'll get credit for it all.

Blue Jeans Go Green - accepting any brand of demin for recycling. There are options to recycle your denim in-store or by mail.

Bra.Recycling.Agency (BRA) - recycle your worn-out bras.

For specific brands:

The North Face Renewed Take-Back Program: bring your old The North Face gear to a retail or outlet store. Your gear will be refurbished to be resold or recycled if repair is not possible.

Levi's Secondhand Trade-In program: keeping Levi's in circulation and out of landfills. Bring to a participating Levi's store near you and receive in-store credits.

REI Trade-In Program - give your gear a new life outdoors and earn an REI gift cards. Trade-ins accepted in store or by mail.

Timberloop Platform - Timberlands designed for circularity, engineered to be disassembled. Return worn items for recycling - then shop refurbished.

Companies like Patagonia, Girlfriend Collective, and Eileen Fisher invite you to mail in their brand-specific products back to the company you bought them from for reuse or recycling.

Reformation, Universal Standard and Madewell (jeans only) will also take back their brand of clothes - and some may even pay you for the material!

Other solutions to reducing clothing waste:

  1. Host a clothing swap! Gather a group of 4 or more friends and share unwanted clothes for free before sending them to a thrift shop. Have fun AND update your wardrobe in one!

  2. Sell clothes online - from Facebook Marketplace to Depop, there are plenty of options to get a little bit of cash and clean out your closets of pre-loved but good condition items!

  3. Post on social media in a local Buy Nothing group - another way to exchange for free - and maybe you'll find another treasure for yourself in the process!

  4. Give to a friend/neighbor - nothing says more local than next door!

  5. Donate - please make sure your clothing is still in great or good quality. Passing off junky clothes to a thrift store shifts the burden of disposal to someone else. Take the responsibility to donate sustainably.

  6. Buy pre-loved fashion - close the loop by shopping at thrift stores or online market places to support the reuse industry.

Have other ideas or unique reuse and recycling options to share? Comment below!

Recycling outlets & affiliate company programs provided on this website are for general informational purposes only and do not constitute the endorsement of the Winnebago County Solid Waste Department or Winnebago County Government.

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