Damaged clothes aren’t garbage anymore

Watch our Threadcycle video.

Did you know that, thanks to a partnership between King County and Seattle Public Utilities, damaged clothes aren’t garbage anymore?


Every day, recyclable and reusable clothes, shoes, and linens end up in the garbage due to the misconception that thrift stores and other collectors will only accept “gently used,” resalable items. In fact, nearly every large collector in the King County area accepts clothes, shoes and linens in any condition, as long as they’re not wet, mildewed, or contaminated with hazardous materials. Some of these items can be resold, and others are recycled into new products.

You may already donate your used clothing; now you can add your damaged clothes, and linens, and even single shoes, to the same bag and take it to one of the many organizations that accept these types of items.

Thrift stores, drop boxes, and others want it all and they make it easy
In the past, thrift stores, drop boxes and collection sites only accepted “gently used” items. But markets have changed, and now many accept items that are stained, holey, or damaged, or “singles” of items that are normally paired, such as shoes, socks, and gloves – as long as they are not wet, mildewed, or contaminated with hazardous materials. Some are reused, and some get recycled into new products.

Organizations that accept all clothes, shoes, and linens throughout Seattle and King County are easy to find.

Good for the planet
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 2.25 million tons of textiles were recycled in 2012 – this avoided annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of 1.2 million cars on the road for one year. You can be part of the solution by giving these items for reuse or recycling instead of throwing them away. So gather up your clothes, shoes, and linens – from your mismatched socks to your ripped t-shirts and old, faded sheets – and give them to a donation location near you.

What happens to items I give?

pie-chartDamaged clothes and linens aren’t garbage – they can have a second life as new products. Many items are made from recycled clothes, linens, and other textiles, including wiping rags; home insulation; sound-proofing and insulation for automobiles and appliances, athletic equipment and pet bedding.

After being donated, items are sorted into different grades depending on their condition.

Resale: About 10-20 percent of items
According to the Council on Textile Recycling, about 10 to 20 percent of donated items are re-sold locally by retailers and charitable organizations.

Brokers and recyclers handle the remaining 80-90 percent
As much as 80 to 90 percent of materials collected cannot be resold locally.* Those items are sorted at sorting and grading facilities into three main categories—those that are:

  • Exported to other countries as secondhand clothing.
  • Recycled and converted into items like wiping rags.
  • Recycled into fiber that is used in new products such as sound-proofing, insulation, and stuffing.

Want to know more? Check out our Post-Consumer Textiles Value Chain.

Where to give?

threadcycle-learn-moreIt’s easy to find organizations throughout Seattle and King County that will accept all your clothes, shoes, and linens – even items that are stained, holey, or damaged. Just head on over to the Threadcycle website and click on “Where to give”. Once there, you’ll be able to find out the locations nearest you where you can donate your clothes, shoes, and linens.

Just remember items that are wet, mildewed, or contaminated with hazardous materials are not accepted for donation.

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