Department of Environmental Conservation

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Textile Reuse and Recycling

New York State residents and businesses donate, recycle, or sell used clothing and other textiles through charitable organizations, reuse centers, community drop off bins and online or brick and mortar consignment shops. That's great! But did you know that every year New York State residents and businesses throw away almost 1.4 billion pounds of textiles, including: clothing, footwear, belts, hats, handbags, drapes, towels, sheets and other linens that could be reused or recycled?

In the United States, textile waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams with the average person throwing away 81 lbs of clothing each year. While we recycle around 15% of post-consumer textiles, that means 85% of our used clothing and other textiles are ending up as waste in landfills and incinerators when the majority of these materials can be reused or recycled providing social, environmental, and economic benefits.

The secondhand market for textiles has been growing rapidly and there are new outlets like online consignment shops and reused gear shops for outerwear/gear, etc.

The Benefits of Reusing and Recycling Textiles

Environmental benefits:

Textile recycling:

  • Decreases the amount of valuable materials going to landfills and incinerators;
  • Reduces greenhouse gases; greenhouse gas emissions from textile production totals 1.2 billion metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent, more than emissions from international flights and maritime shipping combined.
  • Saves natural resources, including water and petroleum; and
  • Reduces toxins from pesticides, herbicides, dyes and other harsh chemicals used in textile production. Cotton is the most pesticide-dependent crop in the world.

Economic benefits:

  • Textile recycling creates jobs! The potential market value of all these discarded materials is almost $130 million, with over 1,000 jobs that would be created across NY state if these materials were recovered for reuse and recycling instead of being thrown away.
  • Keeping used textiles out of the trash reduces disposal costs for local governments, businesses and residents.
  • Allows valuable materials to remain in the supply chain to create sustainable products

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

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.

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 website of the New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (link leaves DEC's 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)