7 Simple Ways to Ethically Dispose Of Old Clothes

7 Simple Ways to Ethically Dispose Of Old Clothes

Shopping for new clothes is exhilarating, to say the least. But revamping your wardrobe comes at the dreaded cost of purging your closet from old clothes that haven’t seen the light of day for months. 

Herein lies the predicament of fast fashion; a constantly evolving wardrobe also means constantly throwing away clothes you no longer wear. 

And what happens to those clothes that you mindlessly discard? 

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, nearly 26 billion pounds of textiles and clothes end up in landfills— even the ones that you thought you donated for a good cause. 

This mountain of textile waste can take over 200 years to decompose. In the decomposing process, these textiles produce dangerous amounts of methane- a greenhouse gas that is about 20 times more potent than CO2

But things don’t have to be so bleak. Here are some ethical and environmentally sustainable ways to dispose of your old and unwanted clothes. 

fast fashion textile waste


As you start to declutter your closet, you’ll probably rediscover your love for a few clothing items you even forgot you had. Unfortunately, they’ll look frayed and tattered, so you begrudgingly toss them in the “throw away pile.” 

But don’t be so hasty; chances are, you can easily breathe new life into those clothes. A few holes, frays, and a little discoloration are easier to fix than most people think. 

You can either do it yourself by searching tutorials on YouTube, or you can enlist the help of professionals. 

repair clothing - eco friendly

2. Upcycle 

In addition to repairing old clothes, you can also rejuvenate old clothes by giving them a complete makeover. 

For example, you can use decorative beads or creative stitching techniques to cover up holes. 

Similarly, you can embrace the discoloration on your old jeans or T-shirt by giving them a bleach bath. With the customized bleach patterns, you’ll be able to camouflage those pesky stains and discoloration. 

What’s more, you’ll basically end up with a completely different item of clothing with a unique design and pattern.  

upcycle ethical fashion

3. Repurpose

Some clothes are simply beyond repair, and no amount of sewing and decorating can salvage them. Plus, no donation center would accept any apparel in such an appalling condition. 

But even in this case, there are plenty of other things you can do with those clothes before throwing them away. You still have quite a lot of fabric on your hands. So, get those creative juices flowing and make something entirely new out of it. 

Here are some ideas: 

  • Turn an old T-shirt into a tote bag
  • Turn old skirts into a T-shirt or a scarf
  • Use old sweaters to make a pillow cover
  • Use old shoes as planters (The material used in most shoes has good drainage and breathability for plants to grow.)
  • Sew old shirts and jeans into a quilt 
  • Cut up small rags and use them for cleaning around the house.

repurpous ethical fashion

4. Sell Online

Decluttering your closet is a great way to make some extra cash. These days, it’s easier than ever to sell old, used, and unwanted clothes online. 

There are countless platforms that allow you to auction off your old or unwanted clothes. Here are some popular options: 

  • Facebook Marketplace
  • threadUP
  • The RealReal
  • Poshmark
  • Depop
  • Tradesy
  • Re/Done

Keep in mind that a lot of these platforms take a hefty commission for each sale you make. So, if you really want to make a buck, you’ll be better off with either selling expensive name-brand items or selling in bulk. 

sell ethical fashion online sustainable

5. Clothes Swap

Hosting a clothes swap is a fun and efficient way to trade in old clothes for new ones (or, rather, for different old ones). 

Moreover, you’ll be taking the initiative on behalf of several households to change up their habits and reduce their waste. 

To organize a clothes swap, all you have to do is get people to bring 5-10 items of their unwanted clothing. While they’re at it, maybe they can even bring some snacks and drinks to make it into a party!

Some online platforms, such as Swap Society, also let you trade clothes. However, they’re much more arduous and way less fun than hosting a clothes swap party.  

clothes swap

6. Compost

Clothes made from natural and biodegradable materials make for great compost. Some of these materials include hemp, linen, wool, cotton, and silk. Composting old unwanted clothes is a great way to return those resources used in production processes back to the Earth. 

To compost old clothes, all you need to do is shred them up as thin as possible. You also want to remove any zippers, buttons, beads, etc.— basically, the non-biodegradable parts of the clothes. 

The tricky part is ensuring that these materials aren’t mixed with other synthetic fabrics such as polyester and rayon. This is another reason to embrace alternative and sustainable fashion since it promotes the use of biodegradable fabrics and reduces waste production.  

compost old clothes

7. Donate

Just because you don’t find value in your old clothes doesn’t mean that other people won’t, either. 

Donating unwanted clothes is a go-to method for many people. Indeed, it’s a great way to contribute to your community and help out those who are less fortunate than you. 

But while the sentiment behind donating old clothes is great, many of those clothes don’t actually end up with a new owner. Instead, recent findings have revealed that big donation centers like Goodwill end up throwing away a lot of clothes anyway. 

So, if you do want to take the donation route, it’s best to donate clothes to people you know personally. You can also check if there are any nonprofits, churches, schools, and mutual aid groups in your community that accepte clothing donations. 

donate old clothes


Decluttering your wardrobe can be daunting, and simply throwing them away starts to seem like the easiest option. 

But while it may be easy, mindlessly discarding old clothes can wreak havoc on the planet. 

Those old clothes haunting you from the back of your closet deserve a chance at a second life. So, instead of tossing them in the trash, try repurposing, selling, exchanging, or even donating them first. 

And if you’re really concerned about reducing your waste, try switching up your fashion habits by adopting slow fashion. 

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