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Give Unwanted Clothing a Second Life

By June 14, 2021General

Twice a year, usually at the beginning of spring and fall, I like to go through my closet and do a “clothing cleaning.” Most of the time, I end up with a pile of clothing I do not like anymore or does not fit me or is not needed anymore.

“Consumers buy twice as much clothing as they did 20 years ago, and most of it ends up as clutter,” Elizabeth Cline, an expert on consumer culture, fast fashion, sustainability, and labor rights in the apparel industry, said. The question is: what to do with clothes we no longer want to wear?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated 17 million tons of textiles were generated in 2018. That year, the recycling rate for all textiles was 14.7%, with 2.5 million tons recycled. Landfills received 11.3 million tons of textiles that same year.

According to the Secondary Materials and Recovered Textiles Association (SMART), about 45% of discarded clothing is reusable. That means we can do better! Here are a few tips to reduce textile waste and give new life to your old clothes:

Donate

Make sure you always clean and dry clothing before donating.

  • Donate clothes to nonprofits and women and animal shelters.
  • Organize a clothing swap party at home or online.
  • Donate through a relevant Facebook group. This method works well with baby clothes.

Recycle

Only use designated drop-off locations and bins. At home, clothing and shoes go in the garbage; do not put them in your blue recycle bin.

  • Stained, worn out, ripped, or damaged clothing and shoes can be turned into new products through Threadcycle – a program created in partnership with Seattle Public Utilities and King County – to help you resell or recycle your unwanted clothes, shoes, and linens.
  • Check to see if local thrift stores have clothing recycling programs.
  • Ridwell is a local program that takes care of discarded clothing as long as it’s not wet, mildewed or soiled with hazardous materials.
  • Ask your favorite clothing store if they have a clothing recycling program. (I heard H&M has a clothing recycling program.)

Sell

Clothes you sell should be in very good condition and clean.

  • Sell clothing to second-hand stores in your area.
  • Have a garage sale. The first Issaquah Highlands community-wide garage sale of the year is Saturday, June 19! Click here for more details >>

Repair, Repurpose, and Restyle

A fun way to reuse your clothes!

  • Use a T-shirt to wrap a gift.
  • Make a women’s top from a man’s shirt.
  • Make fabric pompoms from colorful T-shirts to celebrate your next event.
  • Create a quilted bed cover or a patchwork curtain.
  • Make rag rugs and pillowcases with different colors and fabric textures.
  • Restyle jeans into shorts.
  • Transform tops into tote bags.
  • Make a memory board using pieces of clothing.
  • Sew teddy bears and socks puppets.
  • Use a funky T-shirt to decorate a picture frame.
  • Sew a dog bed.
  • Convert a winter sweater into a cute skirt.
  • Repair and patch holes with different fabric swatches and fabric paint (see below).
jean patchwork supplies

Consider using different shades of denim to patch torn jeans.

jean patchwork

Get creative with stitching and layers of patches. 

Aline Bloch jean patchwork

Voila! Old jeans now have a second, stylish life!

Aline Bloch is the owner of Aline’s Cardboard and Out of the Box Eco-Store, and is a Central Park resident. Photos by Aline Bloch.