Clothes Recycling for Cash

You’ve probably recycled soda cans for nickels, but did you know you could also get cash for your old clothes? We’re not talking about garage sales—we mean exchanging your old, tattered, unusable clothes, even old shoes and carpets, to a recycling center and get paid for it. It’s not much—a typical plant will pay about $1 per kilo—but when you consider its environmental benefits, clothes recycling for cash offers a pretty sweet deal.

Cloth recycling involves repackaging old clothes so that they can be used again, breaking them up and processing them into new fabric, or using them for other products. It all depends on the type and condition of the clothes. Clothes that are still wearable (e.g. those that have been outgrown) are most often donated to charities, such as children’s centers. Otherwise, they can be combed into separate fibers to make “recycled” fabric, which in turn is used for new clothes. The textiles are sorted according to material and color so that they don’t need artificial dyes and processing. Sometimes, the material is shredded and used to fill furniture, mattresses, and similar products.

The term “recycling” can be misleading in this sense, because textiles, being a mix of biodegradable and non-biodegradable material, will still eventually end up as waste. Reusing them therefore only prolongs their life for a few years before they are discarded. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t include fabrics when surveying recycled material. Of course, this doesn’t make it any less beneficial—whatever keeps your old stuff out of the landfills is good for the environment.

Not all textiles will be accepted at plants—some places are smaller and can only process light materials like cotton and wool. Shoes, carpets, and other heavy materials may need to be segregated and recycled elsewhere, usually in bigger plants. Make sure to find out where you can donate these items so they actually get reused or recycled, rather than thrown into the landfills.

Most cities have facilities that accept old textiles, but not all offer clothes recycling for cash. In some U.S. cities, for example, old clothes are picked up on scheduled days from the curbside, much like garbage and plastic and paper recycling. Others have a drop-box where you simply drop your bag in and leave. If you want to get something back for it, you can look up larger organizations or find a private processing plant.

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