We all have a bunch of used underwear with worn-out elastic straps, holes, and discolorations piling up somewhere in our closets or underwear drawer. Your underwear is such a personal item, and giving it out like you would a pair of jeans is not an option.
Dumping your old undies in the trash might be the easy way out. However, doing this will contribute significantly to textile waste, a primary plague in the fashion industry. Waste fabrics and materials can take many years to break down entirely in landfills.
So what do you do when your old panties or briefs begin to slack, and the old bras fall apart?
Read on as we look at sustainable ways to get rid of your old underwear.
Related read: Environmental Impact Textile Waste.
Let’s look at sustainable ways to get your old undergarments out of the way.
Donating them is a great idea if you don’t know what to do with old underwear and bras. You may be thinking - "can you donate underwear?" Well, the answer is yes. You can donate if you have a new or old pair of underwear that you haven’t used in a long time and remain in good condition.
All you need to do is wash, package, and send them to a designated organization. Here are some organizations where you can donate bras and underwear.
I Support the Girls is a non-profit organization that accepts lightly used underwear, bras, and menstrual products and distributes them to women in need. I Support the Girls collects from different locations across the US. You can also mail them your used pair of underwear.
Free the Girls allows you to be part of a great mission that seeks to provide true freedom for women involved in sex trafficking. You can drop off unused bras at their drop-off locations or mail your garments to them.
With this North Face initiative, you can ensure your old clothes, underwear, and shoes don’t end up in landfills.
This company recycles any clothing or shoes and then sends them to its partner Soles4Souls, which has a mission to create sustainable jobs and provide relief by distributing shoes and clothing. If you donate your old underwear, clothing, or shoes to North Face, you get $10 as a reward for your next purchase.
This lingerie store collects and recycles old underwear, socks, and bras to make secondary textiles, which they then send for use to make other materials like carpet padding and furniture lining. This retail store sends a shipping label, and upon receiving your donation, they send you a free pair of underwear.
You can check with local homeless shelters willing to accept old or never-worn underwear.
You may have some old undies with holes and stains, and you don’t know how to get rid of them. You could consider recycling underwear. All you need to do is check with your local community for the nearest clothing recycling bin where you can drop off your old pairs.
You can also send your old underwear to proper textile recycling facilities, where it will be shredded into fabric scraps and then used to create new clothing. Here are a few recycling organizations to send your old underwear to:
Planet Aid is an organization that focuses on helping poor communities by supporting sustainable development projects in countries like Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
They accept anything from old clothing, old underwear, shoes, towels, etc. They also make donations and educate young people on the importance of protecting the environment.
Bra Recyclers is a clothing recycling company that gives out gently used bras. The company is on a mission to provide underwear to families in need while creating job opportunities for people with disabilities.
The company collects old bras, gives them a second life, and donates them to women in need. They also collect new panties. Recyclers also take bras that are too worn out to textile recycling facilities.
The company partners with over 100 non-profit organizations globally and claims to have donated more than 4 million bras to women who need them.
TerraCycle is a recycling program that accepts just about anything. From electronics to deodorant tubes, toys, clothes, and yes, that old underwear.
Terracycle turns its collection into new products. All you need to do is fill out a form on their site, order a zero waste box, fill it up, and send it to TerraCycle through the mail. Other specialist recycling programs near you might also recycle bras; check out your local government or council website for information about organizations that offer free underwear recycling near you.
Hanky Panky is a lingerie retailer that launched an initiative called Lingeriecycle. They created this initiative to keep old underwear out of landfills. The free underwear recycling program sends out a free shipping label, and on return, your old underwear is shredded and then reused for other purposes.
This non-profit organization is dedicated to eliminating waste textiles in landfills by 2037. They provide education and useful resources to find locations to donate underwear or clothes. You can use their website to find a recycling facility in your location.
If you are wondering what to do with old underwear made of eco-friendly fabrics, you can add them to your compost bin.
You can add sustainable fabrics like 100% organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, and other natural materials to your compost pile to be turned into soil nutrients. Ensure they are 100% natural fibers and not mixed with synthetic materials. Here’s how to compost your old underwear:
What to do with old underwear you find super comfortable? You can extend the life of your undergarments by mending them. A little thread and needle could get your undies back in shape.
You can wash the underwear in hot water for the slacking elastic to temporarily extend its life. You can also reattach and mend your broken bra straps or even replace them. You can easily look for tutorials online to fix your underwear.
Are you wondering what to do with old underwear that didn't fit?
Maybe you bought a pair of new underwear that just didn't make it to your underwear drawer. Good online thrift stores and resale platforms accept brand-new underwear or sometimes even lightly used underwear in good condition (however, you're best to check first before sending it off). You can sell them online and make some extra cash.
Here are some second-hand online platforms you can sell your underwear on:
You can get more from your old undies by repurposing them for other projects. Here are a few ideas on what to do with old underwear:
Using your underwear for longer will ensure you don’t replace them too often, reducing textile waste and protecting the planet. So how can we wear underwear to ensure they last longer? Here are a few simple care tips:
Unfortunately, most thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army do not accept underwear donations, bras, or socks.
However, Goodwill will take underwear that is not used and is in perfect condition. Goodwill organizations collect and sell new or gently used items and use the revenue from clothing donations to provide employment training for people within the community.
Sustainable fashion is also about how we dispose of clothing, including underwear. Dumping your undies in the trash can will only compound the waste in landfills. Thankfully, as we have mentioned above, there are other sustainable ways to get rid of your old underwear.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.