The ‘Dirty Dozen’ of Recycling — No. 2: Textiles Do NOT Go in The Recycling Cart!

The ‘Dirty Dozen’ of Recycling — No. 2: Textiles Do NOT Go in The Recycling Cart!

  • Editor’s Note: This article is written by Will County Recycling Program Specialist Marta Keane along with Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland, both of whom are members of the Illinois Task Force for Recycling Contamination Solutions. The article is part of a year-long a series on the “Dirty Dozen” of recycling — the 12 items that should NOT go in the recycling cart. Got local questions or concerns? Contact Jarland at at 630-208-3841 or

Cleaning out the closet for back to school?

If so, here’s a reminder that clothing and other textiles should NOT go in your recycling cart! Or the trash cart for that matter.

Please do not waste them by sending them to the landfill.

According to the U.S. EPA, a whopping 85% of all discarded textiles — 11 million tons — are sent to U.S. landfills every year. Only 15% of the clothing we no longer wants is donated for reuse.

Reuse and recycling is the best disposal option for used clothing, linens, blankets, and other textiles regardless of condition. Even clothing with stains and broken zippers can be donated.

Clothes and textiles are highly reusable, and if not usable then definitely recyclable! Thrift stores will take reusable items. Drop boxes will take it all, even if they are worn or torn.

Once you deposit your textiles into a drop box, reusable clothes and shoes are sorted for reuse; damaged or worn textiles are turned into wiping rags or insulation blankets; beyond that the remains are sorted for use in fiber products.

See this list of local charities and drop boxes near you.

Unfortunately some people place clothing into their recycling cart which is not acceptable. Clothing causes problems at the sorting facility, wrapping around equipment and increasing the cost of processing recyclable paper and containers, and it in the end will be trucked to the landfill. Please DO NOT place textiles in your curbside cart.

When you reuse clothing, either by donating, buying it used, or giving it away to family or friends, you save a variety of resources. Did you know that the average T-shirt requires 700 gallons of water to manufacture? And cotton uses the most pesticides of any crop, so reusing it until it is threadbare and then recycling it will reduce the amount of toxins released into the environment!

Rethinking your purchases goes a long way towards changing your waste footprint. Kane County Environmental Resources has published a new Sustainable Fashion Tips brochure to help give you great ideas on where to start rethinking, reusing, reducing and recycling!

Read The ‘Dirty Dozen’ Series!

Read More Sustainable Fashion Tips!