In 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 11.3 million tons of textile waste ended up in landfills. Methane, a greenhouse gas, is released as clothing and other waste decomposes and, according to the EPA, landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions in the U.S. Materials also decompose at different rates. For example, polyester, which made up 52 percent of global fiber production in 2018, can take decades to decompose.
So, rather than trashing your clothes, sell, donate, or recycle them.
If the clothing is in good condition, pass it along to friends and family members. Or, donate them to a church or charities such as Goodwill and The Salvation Army.
If you’d like to make some money back, consider selling them. Online consignment stores, such as thredUP and The RealReal, will sell your clothes for you and give you a cut. At The RealReal you can expect to get between 30 to 85 percent of the sale price of the item, depending on what it is and how much it costs. On thredUp, that range is 3 to 80 percent. Or, you can sell them yourself on peer-to-peer platforms such as Depop, Mercari, and Poshmark, all of which take a smaller cut—typically between 10-20 percent, depending on the platform. Right now, you can list on Facebook Marketplace for free.
And, while you probably can’t put your clothes out on the curb like your other recycling, it is possible to recycle textiles.
“Some brands, such as ADIDAS and H&M, also offer recycling programs with incentives to consumers,” says Whitehurst.
ADIDAS invites customers to ship clothes and shoes they no longer want to the company to be resold or reused. In return, customers get points in the company’s Creators Club loyalty program and discount vouchers. At H&M, you can bring any unwanted textiles to the store, hand them over at the register, and receive a thank-you coupon to use on your next H&M purchase.
You can also look for textile recycling centers in your community through Earth911 which allows you to search by zip code.