Once you’ve exhausted a garment to the point that it can no longer be mended, it can be tempting to simply throw it into the regular trash. However, doing so will only send them to the landfill where they will generate greenhouse gases and leach harmful dyes and chemicals into the soil as they decompose. There are much better ways of dealing with worn-out clothes. Here are four creative solutions shared by Irina McKenzie, the founder of Vancouver-based Fabcycle, a social enterprise dedicated to collecting fabric and diverting it from landfills.
This solution is ideal for crafty people or those who are friends with crafty people. Old clothing is perfect for filling pillows or pet beds (especially for dogs who love the comfort of their humans’ scent). If you like this idea but know you won’t follow through with making anything, then offer your scraps to others online through conventional online marketplaces or Buy Nothing groups.
For garments with sentimental value, create (or hire someone to create) a cute throw pillow or another ornamental piece so that you can keep it close to your heart.
Bring back the rag
If your old clothes are made out of absorbent fabrics such as cotton, then ditch paper towels and clean more sustainably by cutting your garment into handy cleaning rags.
Find alternative donation sites
Most clothing donation sites won’t take holey socks and ripped tees, but animal shelters might need them to help care for their rescues, and some schools or daycares might put fabric scraps to use for arts and crafts projects.
“Phone your municipality’s waste management hotline for a list of organizations that reuse textiles in your community,” advises McKenzie.
If none of the above will work for you, then take your clothes to a donation bin (note: not a thrift store!) as a last resort. From there it will be sorted and then, if it has value, be shredded and reused. “Unfortunately, we don’t have a great system,” McKenzie says. “This is what we have to work with currently, they’re the only ones that can take those materials.”
However, despite its imperfections, dumping old clothes in a donation bin is better than sending them directly to a landfill.