Last Updated on October 6, 2023
Thinking about recycling your old underwear or tights but don’t know where or how to start? I can help you with that. In this day and age where waste and overconsumption are huge concerns, we’re always looking into ways to reuse and recycle things so they won’t end up in landfill. Tossing your old underwear in the trash might seem like a good idea, but while it might be the easiest (and less awks) option, recycling is a better way to go and really doesn’t take much effort.
Think back to all the times you’ve thrown out old pants, bras and tights (which have been called the plastic straws of fashion) that in your lifetime. Now consider the sheer volume of underwear that ends up in landfill each year, as millions of others do the same thing. While it might feel strange, giving your old undies another life can not only protect our environment, but it can help people in need too. Many places that profit from recycled clothes donate a percentage to different causes and non-profits.
Usually clothing banks prefer good-quality clothes so they can be given away or re-sold. However, for worn-out or used items, they will hand them over to textile banks, turning them into recycled fabric or other products, like insulation and packaging. Of course, you’ll need to wash your old undies at least once before they can be recycled to avoid any harmful bacteria that could be passed on or contaminate other products. Once you have washed them, simply place them in a plastic bag and donate them to charity shops or stores with a recycling programme.
Scroll down to learn more about donating and recycling your old underwear. Next find out how to recycle your old suitcases and even your old beauty products, or learn how to find out your bra size with this handy bra size calculator.
How do you recycle your old underwear in the UK?
Recycle your old underwear in a textile recycling bin
You can’t take old underwear to the charity shop as they can only resell it if it’s new or unworn, but your old underwear, including knickers, pants, bras, and socks can be recycled at your local recycling centre’s textile recycling bin. If your underwear is beyond wear, it can have a second life as materials for fabrics or turned into rags. You can often find textile recycling bins at local supermarkets, but if you’re not sure where yours is, use Recycle Now to locate it.
Recycle your old underwear at H&M, Zara or & Other Stories
Some fashion stores also offer recycling schemes, including H&M, Zara and & Other Stories. Simply drop off any old items into the garment collection box in-store at H&M, and you’ll even be treated to a voucher. The underwear or clothes you drop off don’t need to be from H&M either. At & Other Stories, you’re offered a 10% discount.
What bin does old underwear go in?
If you’re at the recycling centre, make sure you put any old underwear in the textile recycling bin. Here, you can also drop off old clothes and shoes, which can be really handy if you’re having a clearout.
Where can I donate old underwear?
There are several charity organizations in the UK that accept old underwear, tights, and socks. While some of them accept these types of old garments, there are a few things to consider for them to be re-sold or recycled as old rags. In the UK, many charity shops can only sell unworn underwear with tags, while some accept worn items to sell to textile recyclers.
Another option is donating them to an organisation like Smalls for All, a Scottish-based charity that distributes old underwear to people who need it the most in Africa and the UK. Not only do they provide undergarments to those who need them, but they also provide economic support by allowing people to earn an income by selling donated bras. You can donate laundered bras, but pants and knickers need to be brand new.
In addition, a brand called Y.O.U has created a recycling scheme where they teamed up with a recycling business, TerraCycle, that collects old clothes and even used garments to make them into brand new materials. To take part in their activity, you can drop off your items at their collection point in Oxford. It’s that simple.
Can you put old bras in the recycling bin?
If you’re finding yourself with unwanted bras, don’t throw them away! There are several options for donating your bras and returning them to circulation. There are bra banks you can drop off old ones and find the nearest location using Recycle Now. But if you’re near any clothing bank, some places have a free recycling service for unwanted bras and underwear that can be sent via paid post.
Against Breast Cancer encourages you to donate your unworn and unwanted bras to their bra banks. They will send the garments for recycling and ship them off to places where bra production is expensive, like Togo and Ghana. Not only are you decluttering your closet, but your donation can provide economic opportunity for small businesses overseas.
You can also drop off your bras to Bravissimo for recycling. For every kilogram of bras and swimwear given, they will donate the same amount of money to Coppafeel, a breast cancer awareness charity.
How do you dispose of socks and tights?
If possible, donate them to a local nonprofit that recycles old textiles (and who knows—maybe some of those old socks will be used to make new ones!). Another is to donate old socks to charities supporting the homeless.
Swedish Stockings accepts donations of unwanted and unworn tights—which turn into cool fibreglass tanks. It’s a cool way to recycle old clothes, and you will receive a 10% discount. Adding to the list is the independent British design studio, London Sock Exchange, a company dedicated to creating amazing socks by recycling. With the goal of promoting conscious consumerism, they encourage the public to donate old socks by recycling them or donating them to those in need.
You can also recycle them yourself and turn them into rags or washcloths. Cut off the toes and the legs from each pair of socks and tights, then turn them into rags or washcloths. These are perfect for cleaning up spills on hard surfaces or wiping away dust from electronics.