Learn how to recycle jeans for cash! Spring is the perfect time for a house cleanup and a Marie Kondo closet makeover. If you find any jeans that don’t spark joy after the closet makeover, don’t be so quick to throw them into the trash. Big retailers like Bloomingdale’s, American Eagle Outfitters, Gap, Rag & Bone, and many more are getting on the eco-friendly initiative and offer in-store collection of old jeans and denim. This was shown to be a very good way to reduce both the ecological footprint of making new clothing pieces and the amount of trash that ends up in landfills.
Even though jeans are biodegradable, their manufacturing process takes up a lot of resources, especially water. The average pair of jeans requires about 7000 liters of water to produce; considering that two billion pairs of jeans are made worldwide every year, which is a LOT of water utilized solely for making one specific type of clothing. According to the EPA, old clothes (jeans included) made up 8% of all municipal solid waste landfilled in 2017. This kind of manufacturing practice and waste management are clearly not sustainable in the long term. So, gather up your old denim and take it (or send it by mail for free) to the nearest retailer that collects and/or recycles this material. Besides improving the state of our environment, you can also get a coupon or a discount for new denim pieces.
Where can I take my old denim for recycling?
Blue Jeans Go Green is an organization launched in 2006 that collects and transforms old denim into natural cotton fiber insulation – a greener, healthier alternative to fiberglass and other synthetic insulation materials. They do not resell or upcycle those jeans; instead, the collected denim is donated to affordable housing projects like Habitat for Humanity, and also for use in civic-minded buildings like museums, hospitals, schools, shelters, libraries and similar. Zippers, rivets, buttons and other non-cotton materials are separated from the jeans and also processed for insulation purposes. BJGG has diverted more than 1700 tons of denim from landfills so far and made more than 6 million square feet of Ultra Touch insulation. You can send your old jeans by mail directly to BJGG for free, or take them to any large retailer that cooperates with this organization. Here are some of the retailers that are partners with BJGG:
Madewell accepts denim from any brand, so you can take even your retro baggy jeans, old bootcuts and skinny jeans that you had since high school to any of their stores. However, they still don’t accept jeans sent by mail, so you need to take your old denim directly to one of their stores. In return, they will give you a 20-dollar discount for each pair of jeans you bring. Note that this discount can only be used for purchasing their new, full-price pair of jeans.
Madewell has started their recycling program in 2014, and until this day, more than 813,000 pairs of old jeans have been recycled. This initiative has diverted 415 tons of waste from landfills and collected materials have been used for insulating more than a thousand buildings so far.
Rag & Bone
Just like Madewell, Rag & Bone also got on a recycled denim bandwagon. They too accept jeans from any brand. You can deposit your old denim at any Rag & Bone store and get a 20% discount off your entire full-price denim purchase. There is no limit on the amount of denim that you can drop off, but keep in mind that the discount must be redeemed the same day the old denim was deposited. Rag & Bone’s CEO, founder, and creative director declared: “Now, more so than ever, each and every one of us has a responsibility to do our part to protect our environment. The Blue Jeans Go Green Initiative is making great strides in helping brands make a difference and we are honored to be launching this Denim Recycling Program. Honestly, I am intrigued to see if any unwanted Rag & Bone jeans are dropped off, but either way, it is a step in the right direction for our brand.”
One of the most popular and favorite denim brands, Levi’s, has also got on this eco-friendly initiative and offers 20% off one of their full-price pieces. You can take any type of denim, from any brand to any of their stores and outlets (ripped jeans, scraps, jackets, denim skirts, etc.). it is important to note that those pieces must contain at least 90% cotton.
Levi’s is also included in other sustainability initiatives; the brand refashions archival-quality denim pieces for resale in specific stores. At Levi’s in-store tailor shops, their professionals will repair used clothing pieces and give them a new life, instead of sending them to occupy more landfill space.
There are some retailers that only accept jeans from their own brand; Denham is one of them. Denham uses recycled fabrics either to manufacture new clothing pieces or for industrial purposes (making wall insulation). If you take your old Durham jeans to any of their stores, you will get a 20% discount on your next pair.
H&M will accept literally any clothing item that you bring them, no matter in what condition – old shirts, leggings, dresses, pants, even socks. Jeans are of course also included in this list, so you can leave them in one of H&M’s garment-collecting boxes and get a 15% discount for the next in-store purchase.
If your old jeans are in a very good state, you can also get a few bucks selling them at a thrift shop or flea market. There are also online alternatives like eBay, Etsy, Facebook or many consignment online shops. Make the world a little greener by diverting denim away from landfills. If you recycle, reuse or sell your old denim pieces with these methods, you can actively reduce landfill space and also earn a few bucks. Both the environment and your pocket will be thankful.