Recycle Being Green

How to recycle t-shirts in 4 easy ways

Take a look at four ways to recycle t-shirts and reuse t-shirts you don’t wear anymore. Your t-shirts didn’t make the cut for your t-shirt quilt.  Now what. What do you do with your t-shirts?

There are always shirts that you love but not enough to make the cut for your t-shirt quilt, or maybe you had hard decisions to make to stay within the desired size of the quilt. So now what to do with all your other shirts.  I keep two bins in a spare bedroom. One bin is for give-aways and the other for crafting.

T-shirts can go in the give-away bin if they are still wearable. I collect clothing and small items. When the bin is full, I make a trip to Edgewater Ranch Thrift Store (my preferred location) and drop them off.  Sometimes it takes quite a while to fill up, and other times, I have bags of items sitting on the side waiting until the weekend when I can go.

I cleared out my daughter’s closet about a month ago. By the way, said daughter hasn’t lived at home for 8 years. I had about 5 kitchen trash bags of trash and about 5 bags of clothing to donate. Holy moly. I had quite a trip down memory lane that day.

The crafting bin is for no particular purpose. I am a hoarder by nature. I am also pretty innovative with things in that bin. If I can’t reuse t-shirts, I try to recycle t-shirts.  I’ve made bags, rags, dog tug toys, etc.

I’ve included some thoughts below. If you don’t have a crafty individual in your household, bin two will just be for recycling. Some ideas below can be helpful, though, for shirts past their lifespan.

Here are four options to think about.

1. Donate gently worn t-shirts and clothing

Here’s a list of organizations that take used clothing. You will, of course, recognize some of them. I have listed those that came to mind in my area. I’ve included websites for your convenience.

Check out your local area; there are many organizations you can help out by donating clothing. Some of them even pick up.  Bonus. Some have satellite drop-off locations.  And, of course, donations are tax-deductible. Be kind, though, wash the clothing, and don’t throw unusable items in with this group.

Do you have favorite locations you donate to?


Salvation Army

American Textile Recycling Services

St Vincent de Paul Thrift Store

Out of the Closet Thrift Store

Edgewater Ranch Thrift Store

2. Reuse t-shirts

So many things to create out of t-shirts you can’t wear anymore, reuse, reuse, reuse t-shirts. Try internet searches and match your talents with all the ideas out there. Do you use Pinterest? So many ideas out there.

Here are a few that don’t require much work at all. Sometimes the path of least resistance is what you need. Otherwise, you will fall to the dark side and throw the them away. Yup, me too.

Pet pad: Take an old pillowcase and stuff it with the old t-shirts, then sew the mouth closed or even easier, tie it closed for your Fido or Miss Kitty. Your pet will thank you. If your pup is a rough one, try double pillowcases.

Apron – is Dad’s shirt multiple sizes too big for you? Good! You know how your Mom would always tell you to put your play clothes on so you wouldn’t ruin your nice clothes. Does that happen anymore?? Am I showing my age? Well, slip on a t-shirt 2 sizes too big and it becomes your apron when you paint (are you an artist?), clean around the house, wash the car, garden, put chlorine in the pool, etc.

3. Make rags out of t-shirts

This is one of the most straightforward recycling efforts. You can use the t-shirts as is, or you can cut them up into smaller squares to use. They will lose lots of fiber the first time you wash them.

They can be used for so much around the house. You may need to throw them away after using them as rags if they are soaked in gasoline or paint or other solutions, but that’s ok. They’ve been used well—Pat yourself on the back.

  • yardwork
  • painting
  • working on cars
  • cleaning up the dog
  • washing cars
  • dusting furniture
4. Recycle t-shirts

Here’s one exciting suggestion to recycle t-shirts. If your shirts can’t be donated, recycle them. Marine Layer recycles old t-shirts and turns them into new shirts. You receive $5 for every shirt you contribute up to $25 towards store credit. Great idea. I love innovative companies like this.


Re-spun through Marine Layer

Marine Layer Re-spun

It’s only a start. Get creative. What do you do with your t-shirts when they are ready to be bounced out?

Here are some fun or not so fun facts about recycling clothing from the balance small business, Textile and Garment Facts and Figures, by Rick LeBlanc November 6, 2020.

More than 15 million tons of used textile waste is generated each year in the United States. The amount has doubled over the last 20 years. In 2014, 16.2 million tons of textile waste was generated, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Of this amount, 2.62 million tons were recycled, 3.14 million tons were combusted for energy recovery, and 10.46 million tons were sent to the landfill. Synthetic clothing may take between 20 to 200 years to decompose. Only 15% of consumer-used clothing is recycled.

That’s a little sobering. Let’s pitch in. The simpler, the more likely folks will recycle t-shirts and reuse t-shirts. Share your ideas here.

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