How to Recycle Your Clothes

Out with the old, in with the new—and occasionally, a little store credit to boot.

By Zoe Sayler


You might know that the fashion industry creates more carbon emissions than international flights. You might know that millions of tons of textiles wind up in landfills every year. But do you know what to do about it? 

Recycling clothing isn't as straightforward as tossing a can in a curbside bin—but it's not tough, and it's definitely worth it. (Especially when you get a gift card out of the deal.) Whether you're struggling to find room in your closet or making a sustainable New Year's resolution, here are some ways to give your old clothes new life. 

Know any other great clothes recycling programs we should mention? Let our editor Zoe Sayler know at [email protected]

King County Threadcycle

For the stuff that's definitely not suitable for reuse, King County transfer stations will recycle pretty much any textile that's not wet, mildewed, or contaminated with a hazardous substance (a little spaghetti sauce stain doesn't count). Check out this convenient map for a thorough list of transfer stations and thrift stores that accept textiles, or get more info on collection bins and other options from Threadcycle partner organizations.

Girlfriend Collective

Seattle's patron saint of athleisure makes its products out of recycled bottles. When they reach the end of their life with you, you can then send those products back to be reincarnated as skorts, leggings with pockets—you get the idea. You'll have to buy a shipping label for $7 (one for each product), but you'll get a $15 store credit in return.


Madewell—which has local locations in Bellevue and at U Village—offers a generous denim recycling program, even if you're not already a fan. Bring in any of your pre-worn jeans ("the bootcuts from high school, the baggy ones from your skater days, the bright red skinnies from who knows when") and get a $20 Madewell gift card. You know what they say: One man's trash is another man's housing insulation.

Nordstrom Beautycycle

Sure, this isn't technically a clothing program. But it's a godsend for anyone looking to recycle beauty product packaging, like empty shampoo bottles and eyeshadow palettes. Seriously, what are you supposed to do with those things? Take them to Nordstrom or the Rack and toss them in one of the big pink collection bins, that's what. 


Seattleites treat Patagonias like toddlers treat teddy bears—sometimes they get a little too much love. You won't get store credit for this one, but if the thought of your beloved "beyond help" fleece getting a new lease on life gives you the warm fuzzies (Patagonia does try to upcycle recycled products), drop it off downtown or ship it back. For items still very much in wearable condition, the Worn Wear program offers Patagonia credit or repair options, and is also a great way to get outdoor gear for a more reasonable price.


Sometimes, you have to bring in the professionals: Seattle-based Ridwell whisks away the more obscure recyclables, like plastic film and household batteries, that you've agonized over tossing in the trash. Clean-ish clothing, shoes, towels, sheets, and fabric scraps very much included.

Consignment Stores

You might not think of consigning as a form of recycling, but it essentially works the same as a trade-in program that's lax on the rules (though they can be pretty picky about which items they take—stores usually list their preferred brands and styles online, and it's worth planning ahead). Here's our list of a few great local consignment shops to get you started. 

REI Trade-In

REI Co-op members can take advantage of our local outdoor gear behemoth's robust trade-in program, which takes good-condition products that were at one point sold by REI (i.e. they'd probably take your North Face, even if you bought it elsewhere) and offers you a gift card in return. Check their site to see which products they accept and how much money you might get for each. Consider dropping off in-store over shipping to save on the $6 shipping cost—bonus points from the planet and your fellow REI shoppers if you bike there.


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