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Where should you donate your clothes?

Blouse White Blue Stripes Worn OutUsually, I take clothes I no longer want to wear to the Goodwill because donation is easy. However, in the past few years, it has put out public service announcements that it only wants clothing that it can resell.

Since I wear a lot of my clothes until they’re worn out, I needed another solution.

So, I started doing research on what to do.

Online, I found that H&M takes old clothes in any condition.

It’s website says:

  1. Bring any unwanted clothes or textiles, by any brand and in any condition, to one of our stores.
  2. Hand in your bag of old clothes at the register and receive a thank-you coupon to use toward your next purchase. Easy!

Once you’ve dropped off your previously loved fashion in one of our garment collecting boxes, our business partner takes over. It empties the boxes and sorts the contents into three categories:

Rewear: Wearable clothes are marketed as secondhand clothing.

Reuse: If the clothes or textiles aren’t suitable for rewear, they’re turned into other products, such as remake collections or cleaning cloths. 

Recycle: All other clothes and textiles are shredded into textile fibers and used to make, for example, insulation materials.

When I called a local H&M store, the person who answered the phone said they’re taking clothing, even worn out clothing, again. He added additional information: Don’t donate underwear.

I also called the Goodwill and was told they’re taking worn out clothes now.

In doing this research, it made me think about fast fashion, clothes that are made and sold cheaply so that people can buy new clothes often, which I’d just written about after being interested in it for a long time.

One of the problem with fast fashion is that it makes tons and tons of waste.

Americans generate 16 million tons of textile waste a year, equaling just over 6 percent of total municipal waste, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Compare that to plastics, which make up 13 percent of the nation’s waste stream.

As for the Goodwill, a spokeswomen sent me an email about how it uses its clothing donations:

As background, sustainability is a key component of Goodwill’s work and mission, and we strive to minimize waste at every step of our production process. Clothing donations provided to Goodwill are typically sold at retail, or in our outlet stores, with the proceeds going to support free education, job skills and employment programs. Items not sold in our retail stores or outlets are typically sold in bulk to textile recyclers who operate internationally. The bales are broken down and the higher quality clothing is typically resold in local markets. Lower quality clothing is recycled into carpet fibers, insulation, rags, and other products, that then reenter the chain of consumption.

Where can you donate used clothing? Here’s one list from Closet Factory:

  • Goodwill
  • Green Drop
  • Soles4Souls
  • Indigo Rescue
  • Salvation Army
  • Dress for Success
  • Career Gear
  • Big Bother Big Sister Foundation
  • Vietnam Veterans of America

However, some argue donating to the usual places is problematic.

One suggestion is to try to find a local organization to donate to instead of big nonprofits such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army. However, while these have the highest resale numbers, some of the used clothing they collect goes to other countries as baled clothing and it may end up in landfills.

Another idea is to donate your used clothing to retailers such as H&M. The argument is let them pay money, rather than financially strapped nonprofits, to handle the clothing and send it abroad.

Environmentalists have their eye on the clothing waste problem, too. In addition to donating locally, some suggest mending clothing rather than donating it and wearing t-shirts until they’re worn out then using them as rags because they don’t sell well second hand.

Environmentalists are also critical of donating clothing to retailers who offer coupons. They argue it just enables people to buy more clothes, contributing to the clothing waste problem.

Another suggestion is to research organizations to find which ones fit with your values and determine what happens to the clothing they take. Visit the website charity navigator, which evaluates more than 9,000 of America’s nonprofits on their financial health, accountability, and transparency, for information.

So, what I’m going to do is take my bag of clothes to H&M and see how that works.

A funny thing I ran across in my research is a new recycling program from Ralph Lauren only for cashmere, animal-hair fiber forming the downy undercoat of the Kashmir goat. Of course, I have nothing made from cashmere. I’m shopping for a new coat, red hopefully. I saw one made of cashmere for $4,590 on the Nordstrom website.

Update No. 1: I went to H&M today and donated a bag of clothes. I received a coupon for 15 percent off on my next purchases. Unfortunately, I didn't allow enough time to shop. I didn't see any sale racks for winter clothing like most stores have this time of year, but they could be in the back of the store.

Update No. 2: A friend left this comment on Facebook: Eileen Fisher will buy back their clothes at $5/garment. They refurbish them and resell them. They also use recycled textiles to make new clothes.


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Great article. I usually give my stuff to Goodwill because it is easy. Next time I clean out my closet I may try another outlet, like H&M.

Carol Cassara

That was quite an I opener ...I had no idea.


Yes, there sure is a lot of textile waste -- nearly half as much as plastic, which is so prevalent in everything. And, I also was surprised at how much is costs to buy clothes from the sustainable clothing companies.


I will definitely try H&M! Thank you so much for this information!!!

Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski

I love knowing that some of these organizations recycle worn clothing instead of just dumping it. I have also found some great stuff in thrift stores that were never worn. One was a $120 pair of jeans I bought for $15 dollars with all the original tags on.


Rebecca, what a find. Expensive jeans for $15. What great shopping.


I like donating to Goodwill and also local thrift shops. My old church used to run a thrift shop that sold used clothing cheaply. Because church thrift shops aren't trendy, a church thrift shop still allows gently used clothing to be bought by people who really need it and not by someone hoping to make the next fashion splash. Our local church used to give several hundred dollars to the church budget each month from a thrift shop that sold items for 1.00 or less.


A church thrift shop that sold items for $1 or less. That's great. A great way to keep those clothes out of the landfill. I'm still surprised that textiles make up so much of the American waste stream.

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