How Do You Recycle Textiles?

People can recycle textiles by dropping them into a textile recycling company's collection bin or take the most traditional and easiest route by donating them to a thrift shop or second-hand store. These stores are expert in extracting the maximum value from used clothing and other textiles and have established procedures for disposing of items they cannot sell.

The clothes that thrift stores don't resell are still usable in several different ways, depending on their condition and composition. Wet or soiled clothes often are taken to a landfill anyway, as they are difficult to process quickly and efficiently.

Recyclers often sort cotton and other natural fibers into batches of like color and fabric, then shred and recombine them with other fabrics to create yarns to weave into new fabrics, most often for rags and other industrial applications. Some fabrics find new life as filling and insulation in mattresses and other padded items. Recyclers treat polyester and other synthetic fabrics somewhat differently. After removing zippers, buttons and other fasteners, recyclers shred polyester clothes into small pieces, then form these pieces into small pellets through a process called granulation. Machines melt the pieces down into polyester chips, which are spun into new fabric, essentially making them into entirely new garments.