Local residents junk some 40,000 tons of textiles yearly
But old clothes and linens aren’t garbage anymore—learn what you can do
Ellen Pepin and her husband, Gregg Cato, are no strangers to their neighborhood donation center.
“We live in a small house and things pile up quickly,” says Ellen, a communications specialist at Seattle Public Utilities. “We’re constantly trying to declutter—cleaning out the basement or reorganizing our closets—so we always have a few things in our ‘donate’ pile.”
This month, their donation pile features a small bookshelf, a box of books they’ve already read, and something they’ve never taken to their local Goodwill before: a stack of ripped and hole-filled clothing.
Until recently, the couple didn’t know how to dispose of socks with holes in the toes or jeans that have ripped beyond repair. It didn’t seem right to put them in the garbage, but where else would they go?
Ellen and Gregg weren’t the only people to think that way. In fact, Seattle and King County residents toss an estimated 40,000 tons of clothes, shoes, linens and other textiles into the garbage. And all of those items go directly to a landfill.
But ripped, worn and stained clothes and linens, heavily worn or holey socks, and “singles” of items that are normally paired aren’t garbage anymore. These items are accepted by many local organizations, as long as they are not wet, mildewed or contaminated with hazardous materials.
Now in its third year, the Threadcycle campaign, a joint project of King County Solid Waste Division and Seattle Public Utilities, is urging people to take used clothing items to one of the dozens of donation locations operated by nine partner organizations throughout Seattle and King County.
During the month of March, you’ll be seeing Threadcycle promotions throughout King County on buses, social media, and various digital platforms.
The long list of items that can be accepted ranges from purses to ripped jeans to single socks.
The Council for Textile Recycling estimates that up to 95 percent of the clothes, shoes, and linens that are thrown in the garbage could have been reused or recycled and turned into new products:
- Stained, holey t-shirts can be turned into industrial wiping rags.
- Worn out jeans can be recycled into fiber and made into home insulation.
- A variety of items can be recycled into fiber to create sound-proofing for household appliances.
Threadcycle has partnered with nine organizations to encourage residents to recycle all clothes, shoes and linens. These organizations include:
- Big Brothers Big Sisters Puget Sound
- Goodwill (South King, Pierce & Thurston counties)
- Northwest Center
- The Salvation Army
- Seattle Goodwill
- Value Village
These organizations and businesses offer many ways to give your gently used and worn out clothes, shoes and linens, including:
- Drop boxes (found in parking lots throughout Seattle and King County)
- Thrift shops
- Stationary collection trucks and trailers
- Pick-up services (scheduled by phone or online)
- Special collection events
Some recycling and transfer stations also offer collection for these items.
You can bring all of your items in one bag—just remember to avoid wet or mildewed items.
Learn what items are accepted and where to take them at kingcounty.gov/threadcycle