Can You Recycle Underwear? Tips to Keep Your Undies Out of the Trash
At Uye Surana, we make ultra-adjustable lingerie, so you can wear your lingerie for longer, even as your size fluctuates or the elastic wears with time. A longer lifespan helps to reduce waste, but that doesn’t mean your undies will last forever. In 2019, The EPA reported that landfills received 11.3 million tons of textiles in the previous year, most of that old and unwanted clothing.
So then, how do you keep your old underwear from ending up in the landfills? What do you do with your old lingerie that’s worn out, no longer fits, or you just never wear anymore? While you shouldn’t just throw it in the trash, you also don’t need to hold on to pieces you never wear. Keep reading for tips on how to donate, recycle or repurpose your old underwear.
Mend + Repair
Before getting rid of any lingerie, take a second look at it to see if it really is time for it to go, or if it just needs a little TLC. Mending can extend the life of your lingerie, even before it’s time to donate or recycle!
There are also some tailors specialize in lingerie, and can help take in loose pieces, replace worn out elastic, and replace or stabilize lace and fabric panels. They’re not all able to work with intimates, but it’s worth asking your favorite tailor or seamstress if they ever alter or repair lingerie, especially for pieces you really love.
Donate + Recycle
While we don’t suggest dropping off used intimates at your local thrift shop, there are organizations and services that will ensure your gently used bras and undies go to the right place. It’s estimated that 75% of all used clothing, including underwear, is reusable and 20% is recyclable. Only 5% of used clothing is unusable, due to mildew or other contamination. These programs will accept donations in any condition, and then grade them to ensure everything goes to the right place. Just make sure they’re clean, dry, and free of any odors or grease.
We recommend first looking into local organizations that accept donations of used bra and undies, to make the most impact on your own communities. Helpsy has clothing donation bins all over New York that accept used clothing in any condition. The highest grades are sold to secondhand shops and markets, and lower grades are turned into rags for industrial use, or for things like stuffing, padding, or insulation.
In NYC, you can also donate clothing to GrowNYC and you can find other places in New York to drop off underwear and other clothing here.
In other places around the US, you may find USAgain or SMART bins which also sort donations into grades to be reused or recycled. Check their websites for drop off locations.
There are also several nationwide organizations that accept bra donations by mail and provide them to girls around the world. Local lingerie stores will also often hold bra drives for these organizations. If you can,donating bras through a local shop also helps reduce emissions and packaging waste from shipping your donations individually, since they ship off the donations in bulk, but if you are shipping directly to an organization, try to reuse packaging from packages you receive.
Free The Girls sends your bra donations to women who’ve escaped sex trafficking, so that they can earn a safe income selling bras second hand.
I Support The Girls collects and distributes essential items, including bras, underwear, and menstrual hygiene products, allowing people experiencing homelessness, impoverishment, or distress to stand tall with dignity.
The Bra Recyclers is a great option if you're not sure if your old bras are in good enough condition to donate, because they’ll do the sorting for you! Second hand bras go to help women battling breast cancer, or escaping domestic violence and human trafficking. Bras not fit for secondhand use are broken down and recycled.
Repurpose + Reuse
If you don’t have access to a donation or recycling program that accepts used underwear, there are still other ways to avoid simply tossing your undies in the trash!
-Cut the feet off of stockings or pantyhose to make sachets, or sew a pocket from old clean undies. Fill with potpourri and sew shut or tie with a ribbon and use them to keep your undie drawer smelling fresh.
-Cut the waist off old tights and turn them into stockings- just wear with your favorite garter.
-Cut down old garments into rags for cleaning, instead of using paper towels.
-Cut stockings, tights, and more into fabric strips and use them for heatless rag curls.
-Get creative! Scavenge your lingerie for fabric you can use on other projects. Take off lace trim, bows, and buttons to use on other projects.
When it’s time to clean out your underwear drawer, there are plenty of options to help you keep your undies out of the trash bin. Help reduce textile waste by donating, recycling, or repurposing your old lingerie.