How to Recycle Pillows

Most of us use pillows every single night as we sleep and we often lounge on them while we park on couches. Pillows help make us cozy and comfortable, but what do you do with your pillow when it is completely worn out or is damaged beyond repair?

There are few options for recycling but pillows have lots of potential for upcycling and reuse. Donating pillows may also be a great way to help you reduce the amount of waste you send to the landfill.

Find Recycling Guides for Other Materials

Pillow Recycling  Preparation

Before donating, upcycling, or recycling your unwanted pillows, a quick wash is a good idea. Add only about a third of the soap you would to a normal clothing load. Start to dry the pillow in the dryer, then let air-dry the rest of the way.

Why Recycle Pillows

Pillows are most commonly made of cotton or polyester and filled with cotton, polyester, memory foam, or feathers. The raw materials used to manufacture pillows are not all renewable, and we should all work to reduce and reuse the products we purchase to minimize our environmental impact as well as the number of items we send to the landfills.

Mail-in Recycling of Pillows

TerraCycle is a company that believes everything can be recycled. The company works hard to separate the materials they receive and find vendors that will recycle them. TerraCycle offers two recycling options for pillows: a Bedroom Separation Box and a Fabrics and Clothing Separation Box.

The TerraCycle boxes come in several sizes but are not cheap: They start at over $100 each, so you will be paying for the confidence that your household goods will be recycled responsibly.

With these two TerraCycle recycling options, it’s best to recycle your pillows with other, less bulky items to get your money’s worth out of each box you mail — shipping is included in the box price.

Drop-Off Recycling of Pillows

Pillows must be taken apart so that the different components can be separated and processed by material type. This is a more complex process than recycling general textiles. Because of this, they are a hard item to recycle and not in demand by recyclers. There are not many options for drop-off recycling of pillows.

The American Textile Recycling Service offers drop-off bins for textiles and household goods such as pillows in a few states — see if you have one near your home or office. Also, check out GemText, a Pacific Northwest network of clothing and textile recycling locations for similar drop-off textile recycling program.

While municipal textile recycling is still rare, some communities are starting collections. Contact your local municipality or solid waste district to see if this is an option for you.

Donating Pillows

Many clothing donation locations, such as Salvation Army and Goodwill, do not accept used pillows for sanitary reasons.

Look instead to your local homeless shelter, animal shelter, wildlife rehabilitation center, or daycare facility for possible donation options. Contact these organizations before visiting to determine if they accept pillows and if there are any preparation requirements, before you show up with your old pillows.

Upcycling and Reusing Pillows

Pillows are ripe for upcycling and reusing in new ways! Look at your old pillows as the raw material for new household items.

Pillow batting or stuffing can be reused for crafting of new pillows, stuffed animals, or quilts. Sew many pillows together to create a cozy floor bed for kids. Bring your smashed pillow outside for a comfortable kneeling pad while gardening. Reuse your pillow as a bed for your dog or cat. You can even use old pillows to insulate the inside of your home’s foundation.

Frequent Pillow Recycling Questions

Additional Reading