Don’t throw out those old clothes: Recycle them

H&M may have been a pioneer in pants-repatriating but it is far from the only brand.
H&M may have been a pioneer in pants-repatriating but it is far from the only brand. File

In September, Swedish fast-fashion brand H&M introduced a 16-piece denim collection that uses 20 percent recycled cotton yarn.

The Denim Re-Born range includes six pieces for women (three jean styles, a flare-leg denim overall, denim jumpsuit and a denim jacket), five for men (including two jean styles, a zip-up denim jacket and a sweat pant silhouette in coated denim) and a handful of children’s items (including a totally adorable zip-front hoodie with animal ears). The clothes don’t look any different than the company’s standard-issue offerings, nor does the price range ($39.99 to $59.99 for the men’s and women’s styles, $17.99 to $29.99 for the kid’s clothes).

What is remarkable about the new pieces is that the recycled cotton yarn used in their manufacture comes from some of the 14,000 tons of unwanted clothing H&M has diverted from landfills through its global garment-collection initiative, making about as much of a round-trip as a cast-off pair of culottes can travel these days.

Any customer who donates a bag of clothing (of any brand) at one of H&M’s stores receives15 percent off his or her next purchase. Then Switzerland-based I:CO sorts the clothes, sending some on to a new life pretty much as is (supplying secondhand stores, for example), while others are shredded for insulation or turned into rags. Still others are broken down into their component parts and recycled into yarns that are then channeled back into more garments.

H&M may have been a pioneer in pants-repatriating but it is far from the only brand. Here are some others.

American Eagle Outfitters

In April, American Eagle Outfitters announced its own loop-closing (or at least shrinking) program, which turns discarded denim into building insulation for use in construction projects by Make it Right, the house-building effort founded by Brad Pitt in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Thanks to the new program, any customer who brings any kind of denim from any brand into one of its 832 stores in North America gets a 20 percent discount on a new pair of jeans. I:CO does the reuse/upcycle/recycle sorting and sends any unwearable denim along to be shredded and turned into UltraTouch Denim Insulation.

Levi Strauss & Co.

In July, San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co announced a program that’s very similar to American Eagle Outfitters’The big difference is that Levi’s offer isn’t confined to denim; any clean, dry item of clothing or pair of shoes (of any brand) brought to a U.S. Levi’s store is worth a voucher for 20 percent off the purchase of a regular-priced in-store Levi’s item.

Neiman Marcus

If you’ve got a closet full of high-end designer goods you just can’t bear – or afford – to turn into attic insulation, another option is to check out Neiman Marcus’ partnership with luxury consignment website the Real Real. The goods need not have been purchased at Neiman Marcus, but consignors who elect to be paid via a Neiman Marcus gift card earn an extra 10 percent, suddenly turning that $1,000 made by parting with some Prada (or Chanel or Gucci) worth $1,100 of shopping credit with the Dallas-based retailer.