Department of Environmental Conservation

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Textile Reuse and Recycling

New York State residents and businesses donate used clothing to charitable organizations.

That is great! But do you know that every year New York State residents and businesses throw away almost 1.4 billion pounds of usable and recyclable textiles, including: clothing, footwear, belts, hats, handbags, throw rugs, drapes, towels, sheets and other linens.

The potential market value of all these materials is almost $210,000,000

Did you know donations in any condition are welcomed by for-profit and non-profit textile collectors? This includes items with stains, rips, missing buttons or broken zippers.

Textiles are a valuable commodity! Items that don't sell in a thrift store are baled and sold to brokers or graders who sell to overseas markets. In developing nations, used clothing and textiles supply local enterprises with materials to repair and resell.

What Can I Donate?

It is estimated that 95% of all used clothing, footwear and other cloth household products such as sheets, towels, curtains, and pillowcases can be recycled.

Even if items are torn… stained… are missing buttons… have broken zippers, etc., they can still be recycled. As long as the items are dry and oil/grease and odor-free (not stained with solvents such as gasoline) they can be recycled.

Items can be any style, age or condition (even stained and torn items, but remember they need to be dry):

Clothing: Shirts, pants, jackets, suits, hats, belts, ties, gloves, scarves, socks (even single ones) undergarments, handbags and backpacks.

Footwear: Shoes, sandals, sneakers, cleats, boots, flip-flops, and slippers

Household textiles: Curtains, drapes, sheets, blankets, comforters, towels, table linens, throw rugs, pillows, stuffed dolls and animals.

Why Should I Donate These Items?

There are environmental benefits:

Textile recycling:

  • Decreases the amount of trash we bury in landfills (saving landfill space.);
  • Reduces greenhouse gases;
  • Saves natural resources, including water and petroleum; and
  • Reduces toxins. Cotton is the most pesticide-dependent crop in the world.

There are economic benefits:

Textile recycling creates jobs!

  • The number of jobs that would be created statewide if each NY resident recycled one additional pound of textiles per week is over 6,700!
  • Keeping used textiles out of the trash reduces disposal costs for local government, businesses and residents.

More information on textile recycling can be found on the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles website (link leaves DEC's website).

Where Can I Take My Textiles for Reuse and Recycling?

You can bring your reusable and recyclable clothing to:

  • local charities;
  • drop-off bins that are located throughout your community;
  • private clothing recyclers;
  • local transfer station; and
  • special textile recycling events.

Call first to make sure they are collecting.

You can also go to the New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (link leaves DEC's website) website for more locations.

What Happens to the Textiles?

Nearly 100% of donated textiles are reused and recycled!

  • 45% are reused as clothing
  • 20% are recycled into fibers
  • 30% are reused as wiping cloths

What Can't I Donate?

No rugs, carpeting or items stained with blood or grease/oil or items that are moldy.

Other Sources of Information:

Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (link leaves DEC's website)

Council for Textile Recycling (link leaves DEC's website)