Scraponomics Episode 114: What to do with old clothing

Jan 07, 2016, 02:00 PM

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill

Ok, so here’s an interesting one we get a lot of questions about. Clothing.

People will call us at Friedland, asking if we take clothing or rags as scrap for recycling.

A long time ago, we did. We’ve even found an ad my great grandfather placed in the Lansing State Journal in 1945 that says, "We take rags!"

We don’t process clothing today, but our national trade association, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, does have some information about garment and other textile recycling on their website (

Here’s some of the information I found.

Supposedly, almost half of the garments collected for recycling in the US are exported for reuse to developing countries where many of the people can’t afford clothing.

About 30% is turned into rags, like wiping cloths.

For about 20%, the fiber within the garments is re-pulped and used for things like stationary, flooring materials, and even mattresses.

And lastly, about 5% is ultimately discarded because it’s deemed not usable or recyclable.

The question then becomes, if you want to donate or recycle your old garments, where can you take them?

Well, an obvious one to many of you is Goodwill. You can donate your old clothing to Goodwill, and even if they can’t resell it, they’ll send the clothing out for textile recycling. I’m not 100% sure of how their recycling process works, but you can learn more about it at

There’s other outlets in the Lansing area where you can take clothing, too. St. Vincent’s is another great one. You can reach them at

Even if there’s a type of scrap material that Friedland doesn’t take, usually we can help you figure out a different path.

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