I had originally started this post back in December/ January, however, an unfortunate incident of needing to completely wipe my hard drive and essentially restart my computer from scratch meant I lost a few things in the shuffle. One of them was all my research into recycling fabric scraps. Whoops!
But, this topic was too important for me to simply brush to the side. As sewists, I know that a major pain point is not knowing what to do with all our excess bits of scraps. No one wants to just toss them in the garbage, but there are also only so many items your can reimagine those scraps to be. I don't know about you, but I already have more poufs made of and filled with scraps than I will ever need in this lifetime. 😅
So, I started from the beginning and re-researched my former research, and I am happy to be able to present to you a few options for recycling your fabric scraps!
RECYCLING FABRIC SCRAPS
1. Thrift Shops (Worldwide)
Did you know that many thrift shops get an excess of clothing donations each year? Have you ever wondered what happens to those extra clothes? Some of our excess clothes make their way to other countries where they are then re-sold on the secondhand market (Secondhand by Adam Minter is a great read if you'd like to learn more about the secondhand global market.), but many garments are destined to go straight to a textile recycling facility to be made into rags or ground down into shoddy.
Whereas it is sad that many of our garments will never make it to a new home, this is good news in regards to properly discarding your textile scraps. Many thrift shops (such as Goodwill in the US) will actually take textile scraps and pass them directly to textile recycling facilities.
Before dropping off your unwanted scraps, you will want to contact your local thrift shop (even with larger chains, many thrift shops are independently operated) to make sure they accept textile scraps for recycling. If they do, make sure you label your package as "Textile Scraps for Recycling," that way, whoever is there to handle your donation knows exactly what to do with it, saving time and resources in sorting!
2. FabScrap (USA)
I LOVE FabScrap and everything they do. I regularly donate to their cause because I believe in their mission of diverting textile waste from going to the landfill. And recently I just found out that FabScrap doesn't just accept textiles from residents of New York - they will actually accept mail-in textiles as well!
FabScrap does ask for a small fee of $1.50/lb of textiles to help offset their costs, so please keep this in mind when sending in your donation. There are no minimums for donating, but the founder did mention that mail-in donations averaged around 50 lbs. For more information, you can fill out this form on their website. If you live in the NYC area, you can physically drop off your donation in person.
3. TerraCycle (Worldwide)
TerraCycle is amazing in that their mission is to help recycle the hardest to recycle items. They have both mail-in and drop-off programs with many services offered for free.
Some of their services, including their Zero Waste Fabric recycling, come with a price tag. This might be a great solution for a group of sewists to come together to chip in for purchase, or even a classroom or sewing shop.
Regardless, TerraCycle is an incredible company doing incredible work. If you are on the path to leading a Zero Waste life or are finding it hard to phase out certain items, yet you still wish to recycle them, I highly recommend giving their site a look through.
4. Re:Loom (Georgia, USA)
Re:loom is an incredible organization based here in Georgia. They take fabric scrap donations and then turn those into beautiful items for purchase. They invest in their community by providing jobs to those who need it most and the tools to help build a financially independent foundation.
As far as I know, they only accept donations from those able to physically bring donations to their Decatur location (you can find out more about donating HERE), but I have seen other similar organizations mentioned in a variety of places.
In this 2012 post from Grainline Studios, many people mention different places that accept textiles for recycling local to them. Be sure to do your research prior to dropping off textiles as some places only accept certain sized textiles, and some may no longer be accepting any textiles for recycling.
5. Donation Bins (Worldwide)
This one is a bit tricky, as not all donation bins might accept textile scraps the way sewists know them to be. Many only accept used clothing and shoes. However, through my research I did find bins and organizations that operate those bins that accept textiles for recycling, which makes me feel as if there are possibly more out there! The best way to figure out if a bin near you accepts textiles for recycling is to give them a call/ email or google their organization. A quick google will also help to inform you whether those little bins are run by a for-profit or non-profit, and potentially shed some light into where your donations might be headed. All of which can be important information!
Green Tree Recycling was one bin I found that accepts used textiles (from what I gathered off their website). They are located in NYC and collect textiles at weekly farmer's markets in the city as well!
There were a few other online resources I came across, such as Simple Recycling and DonateStuff , where I couldn't quite tell if they accepted textiles as sewists know them or ONLY clothing and household items. The language wasn't super clear. If you run across an organization that you are unsure about what they accept, simply reach out to them to clarify if they will accept fabric scraps for donation. It only takes a few minutes to send an email and you might wind up with a life-long go-to place for properly recycling all of your unused fabric scraps!
I hope this post has helped you to find at least one new place that you can send off your fabric scraps to be recycled/ upcycled/ donated, or has pointed you in the direction of where you can look for such an organization! I'd love to hear if there are any places you already know about in your area or that you regularly take your fabrics to be recycled? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!