Donating clothes not only lightens our closets but also supports sustainable practices, such as textile recycling. However, have you ever wondered what truly happens to your donated clothes and how textile recycling works? In this blog post, we will explore the intricate journey of donated clothing, shedding light on the fascinating process of textile recycling while examining the percentage of clothing that ultimately gets recycled.

Sorting and Assessment:

Once your donated clothes reach a textile recycling facility, they embark on a meticulous sorting and assessment journey. Skilled workers examine the garments for quality, condition, and marketability. Wearable and desirable clothing is set aside for resale, while damaged or unwearable clothing moves forward for recycling.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich:

Resale Opportunities:

A significant number of donated clothes (often, the majority) still possess value and are sold to thrift stores or second-hand markets. These wearable garments find new owners, extending their lifespan and reducing the need for new clothing production. This step provides an immediate option for consumers seeking affordable alternatives to fast fashion.

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Some donated clothing that doesn’t find buyers locally finds its way to international markets. This influx of clothing, provides affordable options. This global circulation of clothing offers economic opportunities and contributes to a circular economy.

Repurposing and Upcycling:

Textile recycling goes beyond resale. Garments that aren’t suitable for direct use are repurposed or upcycled into various products. Examples include transforming old t-shirts into cleaning rags, transforming denim into stylish bags, or converting fabric scraps into insulation materials. Embracing resourcefulness and innovation, textile recycling gives a new lease of life to seemingly unusable clothing items.

Mechanical Recycling:

Now, let’s delve into the technical aspect of textile recycling. Damaged or unwearable garments are shredded into fibrous materials, generating a base material commonly known as recycled fiber. This recycled fiber forms the foundation for manufacturing new textiles, such as rugs, blankets, or even new garments. Mechanical recycling minimizes the need for raw materials, energy, and water consumption, offering an eco-friendly alternative to traditional textile production.

Chemical Recycling:

In recent years, chemical recycling techniques have emerged, elevating textile recycling to new heights. This method involves breaking down fibers into chemical components, which can be used to produce new materials, like plastics or solvents. Chemical recycling maximizes recycling efficiency, enabling the extraction of various resources while reducing waste.

The Recycling Percentage:

While the exact percentage of clothing that gets recycled varies depending on geographical location, available infrastructure, and donation quality, statistics indicate that around 15-20% of donated clothing goes through textile recycling. This figure highlights the importance of educating individuals about proper clothing disposal and producing more accessible and efficient recycling systems.


Donating clothing initiates a remarkable journey into sustainable practices and contributes to minimizing textile waste. Understanding the process of textile recycling helps us appreciate the impact we can have by donating our clothes. From resale opportunities to repurposing and advanced recycling techniques, the realm of textile recycling thrives on innovation and environmental consciousness. Together, we can continue to shape a future where clothing waste becomes a thing of the past.