From an environmental standpoint, the fashion industry is wearing a very bad look. Globally, 40 million tons of textiles are sent to landfills or incinerated every year and the fashion industry is responsible for over 8% of total greenhouse gas emissions. There are a lot of ways to make your wardrobe sustainable, but eventually, you’ll have to dispose of some old clothes. Fortunately, retailers are starting to make it easier to close the loop by offering clothing take-back and even resale programs.
Those that are particular about brand or condition often allow clothes to have a second life as clothing, while programs that accept anything, although convenient, rarely result in the highest use of returned items. Use this list to help you find the best option for your old clothes.
Some programs have paused during the pandemic. Call the retailer to confirm that the program is active before making a trip to the store.
Brand Specific, Wearable
You can earn from $5 to $35 for each piece of used, wearable Levi’s denim you return. You’ll have to book an in-store appointment to trade in up to five items. Levi’s will resell quality items online and donate the rest. Vintage denim can be worth a lot of money, so you might be better off selling yours yourself.
The North Face
Through the TNF Renewed Take-Back program, you can bring your old The North Face gear to a TNF retail or outlet store for recycling. The company will repair and resell worn, returned, damaged, or defective products and sell them at an affordable price online at The North Face Renewed Collection. If the gear can’t be repaired, the company will recycle or donate it.
Any Brand, Wearable
If you live near a DSW store, you can bring in your gently used shoes for redistribution through Soles4Souls. Just tell a sales associate that you are making a donation, put your shoes in the bin, and if you have a DSW VIP account, they will give you 50 points.
Gap is the biggest retailer partnering with thredUP to recycle or resell old clothes. Order a Gap x thredUP Clean Out Kit online or request one at the store and turn your gently used clothes into shopping credit redeemable at Gap, Banana Republic, Athleta, or Janie and Jack.
Madewell partners with thredUP to give shopping credit for gently used women’s clothing, handbags, shoes, and accessories (any brand, any size) that thredUP resells from the Madewell-sponsored bag of clothes you mail in. Clothes that don’t make the cut are recycled or returned to you for a $10.99 fee.
Reformation rewards recycling through its partnership with online reseller thredUP. When you request a clean out kit through Reformation’s website you can earn Reformation credit for your gently worn items that thredUP sells; or you can choose to donate your clothes and Reformation will give $5 to the Circular Fashion Fund.
The North Face
The North Face’s Clothes the Loop program is a partnership with Soles4Souls to take gently used clothes and shoes from any brand. Drop items at their retail and outlet stores and earn a $10 credit towards your next The North Face purchase of $100 or more.
Own Brand, Any Condition
With the Eileen Fisher Renew program, every Eileen Fisher piece that’s returned in-store or by mail is eligible for a $5 reward credit, regardless of condition. Worn-out clothes are recycled and the rest are refurbished for sale through the program. You can use your reward credits for Eileen Fisher new or Renew items.
The brand that makes athletic wear from ocean plastic also has its own recycling program. Buying a $7 shipping label from ReGirlfriend allows you to return one Girlfriend item (or five pairs of socks or underwear) to be recycled into new ones. You receive $15 in-store credit for each package you mail back.
Any Brand, Any Condition
Children’s clothing brand carter’s has partnered with TerraCycle on a mail-in recycling program for kids’ and baby clothes. Create a TerraCycle account online to download and print a free TerraCycle shipping label. Mail children’s clothes from any brand in any condition (as long as they are dry). TerraCycle will shred the clothes for recycling into furniture stuffing and home insulation. To receive 75 points for each month in which you make a donation, join carter’s Rewarding Moments Points program.
H&M began recycling clothing in 2013 and their program is still going strong. You can bring any unwanted clothes or textiles — by any brand and in any condition — to an H&M store and receive a coupon to use on your next purchase. Depending on the condition, clothes will be resold online through H&M Rewear (which also allows you to sell items directly) or recycled into other products like insulation.
Madewell’s in-store denim recycling program accepts any brand of jeans in any condition. Through partnerships with thredUP and Cotton’s Blue Jeans Go Green™ program, jeans will either be resold (for about half the price of a new pair of jeans, you can buy second-hand Madewell jeans online through Madewell Forever) or recycled into insulation. Each time you bring in old jeans, you’ll receive $20 towards a brand-new pair of Madewell jeans.
If you live near a Soma store, you can recycle bras from any brand in any condition and receive 125 Love Soma Rewards points per bra donated. Soma partners with I Support the Girls and The Bra Recyclers to donate bras in good condition to women in need and to recycle fibers and hardware components from bras that are worn out. If there is no Soma near you, you can recycle bras through The Bra Recyclers’ mail-in program.
Zara partners with local nonprofits to collect used clothes, linens, shoes, and accessories for textile recycling or reuse. Clothes in good condition will be donated to charity; the rest will be recycled into new textiles, insulation, and car upholstery. Donations must be neatly packaged and dropped off at a Zara store in person.
Originally published on February 23, 2022, this article was updated in February 2023.