The fashion industry is one of the world’s most polluting. A 2016 report commissioned by Savers, a thrift retailer, found that Americans toss an astounding average of 81 pounds of clothing every year. And to make matters worse, apparel can take hundreds of years to decompose in a landfill, according to Close the Loop, all while releasing harmful greenhouse gases.
The good news is Savers found 95% of the clothes we toss are reusable or recyclable. And to help with that, many clothing retailers now offer incentive programs to encourage customers to recycle their old clothing and divert it from landfills.
Some donate your old clothes to charity, while others turn them into something altogether new. But they all provide you with financial incentives like retailer discounts, loyalty reward points, and gift cards.
Retailers That Will Recycle Your Clothes for Money and Rewards
Clothing recycling programs have different requirements for the types and conditions of textiles they accept. Those provisions depend on how they plan to recycle your goods. So always read the program’s specifications before dropping off your clothes. You can choose one of these retailers based on what you have to give away.
1. The North Face
The North Face’s Clothes the Loop campaign is part of its commitment to more sustainable clothing production, including using eco-friendly fabrics like organic cotton and reusing polyester and nylon. It also includes a line of renewed clothing, a circular clothing model for repairing and reselling used clothes.
The North Face accepts used garments and footwear from any brand in any condition. They work with partner charity Soles4Souls, which distributes shoes and clothing to those in need. Soles4Souls also provides small-business opportunities in developing countries by giving them stock to start resale shops.
In exchange for your donation, you get a $10 coupon toward the purchase of $100 or more.
2. Universal Standard
Universal Standard built its brand on inclusive sizing and body-positive models. It’s also committed to sustainable fashion and timeless pieces that last. Thus, it’s no surprise the retailer offers an incentive program for buyers to recycle their unwanted clothes.
Its Reset, Recycle, and Refresh program partners with the recycling company Marimole to collect your old clothes and turn them into new materials, such as yarn used for manufacturing new fabrics or household goods.
To get started, purchase a recycling bag from Universal Standard for $4.50. Fill it with one to four pieces of your old clothing from any brand in any condition. Then mail the prelabeled bag to Marimole.
Within 10 days of receiving your bag, Universal Standard will email you a unique $25-off coupon code for each garment sent for recycling. Note that you can only use one coupon code per transaction.
The recycling program started by fast-fashion retailer H&M is one of the most well known. Though the retailer doesn’t have the best reputation for sustainability, they’re making efforts to atone for that, from pioneering clothing recycling programs to investing in recycling technology.
All clothing is eligible for H&M’s recycling program — any brand in any condition. The retailer even accepts odd socks, worn-out T-shirts, and bedsheets.
Simply bag up your used textiles and drop them off at your nearest H&M. Find one by searching the store locator page on H&M’s website.
For every bag of used items you drop off, you receive a discount card for 15% off your next purchase.
H&M has temporarily paused the program during the COVID-19 pandemic but will relaunch soon. So if you’re cleaning out your closets now, set aside your unwanted clothes until H&M puts back out their recycling bins.
Kids clothes present a unique challenge for recycling. Kids go through clothes fast due to constant growth spurts and how frequently they stain and tear them. It makes it nearly impossible to find options for donating or reselling their clothes.
Fortunately, the children’s clothing retailer Carter’s has a convenient solution. It partnered with TerraCycle, a recycling company that works with many major brands, for the KidCycle clothing recycling program.
To earn points for your recycling, you must be a member of Carter’s Rewarding Moments, their store loyalty program, which is free to join. You don’t have to be a member to recycle for free with the program, but you don’t earn any loyalty points.
Next, sign up on TerraCycle’s website using the same email you used to join Carter’s Rewarding Moments. That auto-generates a shipping label. Box all your undonatable kids clothes — from any brand in any condition. The only clothing they don’t take is shoes and accessories. Then ship everything to TerraCycle via your local UPS.
Once TerraCycle receives and processes your shipment, you get 75 points on your Carter’s Rewarding Moments loyalty account within 45 days. Though you can send multiple shipments per month, the program is limited to one points award per month.
Clothing retailer J.Jill runs its own charity called the Compassion Fund, which aims to support and empower women by donating to community-based organizations. According to its website, it’s donated over $17 million to nearly 100 U.S. organizations focused on self-sufficiency and development, education and entrepreneurship, and health and wellness.
To help fund the charity, they run a biannual clothing drive. You must drop off clothes in-store, and they must be in good condition. Follow J.Jill on social media or subscribe to the retailer’s email newsletter to receive notifications about clothing drive dates and details.
If you donate to the drive, you receive 10% off one full-price product for every gently worn garment you donate.
There are two ways you can recycle with Levi’s. To help keep denim a part of the circular economy, Levi’s has partnered with Cotton’s Blue Jeans Go Green program to recycle any brand of jeans or denim jackets in any condition.
Visit your local Levi’s store or outlet, which you can find by using the store locator page on Levi’s website, and drop your old jeans in one of the recycling bins. Your used clothing will be remade into materials for building insulation. A portion goes toward community-oriented projects like libraries, hospitals, and schools.
You receive a voucher for 20% off a single product in exchange for your donation.
Alternatively, if your Levi’s brand denim is still in relatively good condition, you can take advantage of Levi’s trade-in program. Levi’s takes your denim, repairs any minor damage, sanitizes it, and resells it through its secondhand shop. Note: It only accepts certain types of denim, and you must make an appointment to bring in your items.
The value of each garment you trade in varies, but you could get anywhere from $5 to $35 on a store gift card. Levi’s has a chart on its website to help you determine your clothing’s potential value.
Madewell is on a mission to become fully sustainable by 2025. All the fibers used in their products will be sustainably sourced and free of virgin plastics. For now, it has partnered with Cotton’s Blue Jeans Go Green program to repurpose denim and keep it out of landfills by turning your old jeans into housing insulation.
To participate in Madewell’s recycling program, bring any brand or style of jeans in any condition to your local Madewell store. Find your nearest location by searching the locator page on Madewell’s website.
In exchange, you get a coupon for $20 off the purchase of one new pair of Madewell jeans.
8. DSW Shoes
Recycle your new or gently worn shoes by donating them at any DSW store. DSW works with partner charity Soles4Souls to redistribute your shoes to those in need or help those in developing countries start their own businesses. Note that DSW only accepts shoes in good condition.
While anyone can participate, to earn perks for your donation, you must be a DSW VIP — a member of their store loyalty program, which is free to join. Once you’ve signed up, earn for your shoes by dropping them off at your local DSW, which you can find by searching the locator page on DSW’s website.
In exchange for each donation, DSW VIP members receive 50 loyalty points — that’s halfway to a $5 reward. You can only earn one 50-point reward per week.
Soma stores have partnered with The Bra Recyclers in their #BraItForward program to collect your new and gently used bras. Bras that are still in good condition are distributed to shelters affiliated with I Support The Girls and the National Network to End Domestic Violence. The Bra Recyclers recycles any bras it can’t pass on.
Although anyone can participate, you must be a member of the free Love Soma Rewards loyalty program to get the incentive for your donation. Once you’re a member, bring your bras to your local Soma store, which you can find by searching the store locator page on Soma’s website.
In return, receive 125 Love Soma Rewards points per bra donated, equal to $5 in discounts, up to a total of 250 points per month or $10 in rewards points.
Patagonia is all about nature and the outdoors, and the company’s identity is rooted in a respect for the Earth. So it’s no wonder it reflects that identity in corporate activism, the use of sustainable materials, and a recycling program.
Patagonia’s Worn Wear program lets consumers trade in gently worn Patagonia clothing in-store or by mail. The program includes most clothing in adult and kid sizes along with gear, such as backpacks and sleeping bags. Trade-ins must be in good condition.
Trade-in values range from $10 to $100 payable as store credit you can use at a local Patagonia store, online, or at the Worn Wear store. The Patagonia website provides a guide to potential trade-in values.
Gap, Inc. has partnered with ThredUp, an online resale company, to recycle your gently worn clothing. At select Gap, Banana Republic, Athleta, and Janie and Jack stores, you can pick up a free ThredUp kit, which includes a bag and mailing label.
Fill the bag, then drop it off at any local FedEx or post office location. If ThredUp selects any of your garments for resale, you can opt to receive either cash or store credit. If you opt for store credit and use it at any Gap Inc.-brand stores, you get an additional 15% off your purchase.
Any clothes ThredUp doesn’t choose for resale, it recycles. Or you can choose to have them mailed back to you for a fee.
Fashion brand Reformation is another clothing retailer aiming for big goals by 2025. But they’re not just looking toward full sustainability. Reformation wants to be climate-positive, meaning they want to remove more greenhouse gasses than they omit.
One thing Reformation does to reduce their carbon footprint is partner with ThredUp to keep clothes in circulation and out of landfills. Reformation gives you two options to recycle your clothes through their program.
You can request a Payout Kit if you’re looking to spend money at Reformation. Receive a prepaid bag with a shipping label from ThredUp, fill it with your unwanted clothing, and drop it off at a local FedEx or post office location. ThredUp looks through your clothes, picks eligible garments to resell in its online thrift store, and gives you credit to use at Reformation as payment.
Alternatively, you can request the Donation Kit. Instead of credit to shop at Reformation, ThredUp donates $5 to Circular Fashion Fund, a nonprofit that aims to promote a circular economy.
13. Eileen Fisher
Eileen Fisher is another retailer committed to producing clothing sustainably and recycling it. The company first joined the trend in 2014 when it switched from conventional to organic cotton. Since then, it’s launched its Eileen Fisher Renew program.
The retailer accepts every piece of Eileen Fisher clothing for recycling, regardless of its condition. You can return it either in-store or by mail. The company sorts each garment, cleans the pieces, resells undamaged pieces online and in its physical Renew stores, and recycles the rest.
In exchange for bringing in your used clothes, every piece is eligible for a $5 reward credit, regardless of its condition.
14. Planet Aid
The trouble with many retailer recycling incentive programs is that many only accept gently worn clothing or clothing from their own brand. But if you’re looking to recycle ripped, stained, or off-brand clothing, you may be out of luck for scoring a financial perk.
Even most charities don’t want worn clothing, which is why organizations like Goodwill specify on their websites that clothes must be free of stains and tears. That’s because clothing — whether donated or turned in for financial incentives — most often gets recycled by passing it on to those in need.
But there are a few rare charity exceptions. One is Planet Aid. It aims to keep as many textiles out of landfills as possible while helping individuals in impoverished nations. Planet Aid resells used textiles, including clothing and linens, in developing countries where there is more demand for it, creating jobs and a source of affordable clothing for impoverished individuals. Thus, it collects all kinds of used fabrics other charities won’t take.
To recycle your used clothing with Planet Aid, put all your donations into a bag and drop it off at one of Planet Aid’s thousands of yellow drop-off bins around the country. Find one on the Find a Bin page on its website.
You won’t get a retailer coupon or store gift card by recycling with Planet Aid, but you could potentially get a financial benefit in the form of a tax deduction if you itemize your taxes.
According to National Geographic, more and more retailers are hopping on the recycling bandwagon because it makes good business sense, even if the company isn’t yet a sustainable clothing brand. Thus, while online lists are a great starting point for examples of what’s available, retailers constantly add new programs.
So before you throw potential money in the trash, always check to see if the store where you’re planning to shop or the brand you’re planning to buy offers a recycling perk.
If your clothes are in bad condition or there are no recycling programs available in your area, visit Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles. The online platform helps people find nearby textile recycling outlets. Though you won’t score any perks, you will help divert your used clothing from a landfill.