Clothing is probably one of the easiest things to avoid putting in the trash, yet Americans throw away more than 11 million tons of textiles annually, which is about 66% of the total textiles produced in a year. There’s no need for this. Next time you’re wondering what to do with a pair of jeans that have a rip, no longer fit, or just aren’t in style anymore, think beyond the bin to something more creative. Here are five ways to recycle your jeans to get you started.
1. Your unwanted denim can be turned into insulation.
A number of years ago, we had a plumbing issue at our house. The resulting fix included the need to replace some water-damaged insulation. In researching the best, most sustainable and least toxic options, I found recycled denim insulation. Since finding this healthy alternative to fiberglass insulation, I’ve donated any old denim we can’t reuse or repurpose to Blue Jeans Go Green.
Blue Jeans Go Green denim recycling takes all your worn denim and recycles it into insulation. By donating to them, you are helping to keep textile waste out of our landfills and toxins out of our environment.
Blue Jeans Go Green partners with retailers to make it easy to drop off your denim for recycling. If you don’t have a participating store near you, you can mail your denim to Blue Jeans Go Green. To find a participating store in your area and guidelines for mailing your denim, visit their denim recycling page.
2. Turn your denim into a pair of shorts.
This is probably the easiest way to repurpose a pair of jeans. Even if you don’t sew, you can make long jeans into shorts. Get a pair of sharp scissors, figure out where you want to cut, and then enjoy your new shorts. Remember the old saying, “measure twice, and cut once.” If you’re a sewer (or good with a glue gun), check out this tutorial by Craft & Creativity for some adorable additions to cutoffs.
3. Upcycle your denim into a reusable bag.
One of my favorite ways to upcycle denim is by making reusable bags. You can use the bags as an adorable way to package a gift, as a purse, and as a reusable grocery carrier, just to name a few. I also found this creative phone charging bag. This is another project that could be done simply with a glue gun or, if you don’t have one, some craft glue.
4. Upcycle your denim into some sweet friendship bracelets.
One of my girls’ favorite projects is to upcycle material, including denim, into friendship bracelets. They are able to use their creativity and make each bracelet a special work of art. First, gather supplies like fun buttons, embroidery floss, and any other embellishments you may have on hand. Then cut the denim into strips.
Next is where the fun really begins. Let your kids use their imaginations to dream up some adorable ways to decorate their friendship bracelets. They could even begin by sketching out their ideas so you know how to help them make their vision a reality.
Your kiddos can wear their bracelets proudly and give them as gifts.
Need more ideas on how to upcycle your worn denim? Visit this helpful Pinterest board.
5. Make a craft supply holder with your unwanted jeans and some cans from the recycling bin.
This is a great idea for anyone who wants to organize their craft supplies in one spot. You could make it a kid-friendly craft supply holder by including washable markers, colored pencils, safety scissors and glue sticks. Add a handle and this could be a great way to bring craft supplies on the road with you. I found this example at 8Trends.com.
Bottom line: Don’t throw away your old jeans. If you aren’t interested in craft projects, donate your worn but wearable jeans to a local thrift store like Goodwill, recycle your worn denim with Blue Jeans Go Green, or use our Recycling Search to find spots near you that accept textiles.
What ways have you recycled jeans in the past?
Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock.com. Originally published on February 6, 2017, this article was updated in August 2020.