The Best Sustainable Options for Discarding Old Lingerie Responsibly

Sustainable Options for Discarding Old Lingerie

Everyone needs to practice responsible waste disposal. But when it comes to disposing of old clothing—especially underwear—the proper procedures may be a little perplexing.

Fortunately, we’re here to clear all that up! And when you consider that fashion is responsible for 15 million tons of textile waste annually, nearly 20% of global wastewater, and around 10% of carbon emissions, knowing what to do with your old lingerie is crucial for the health of the planet.

If you’ve got a pile of old undies lying around that aren’t quite sure what to do with, look no further. We’re going to share nine different ways to process or pass on your pantaloons (the granny kind and the sexy kind) in ways that are both easy and environmentally friendly.

9 Sustainable Options for Discarding Old Lingerie

1) Recycle them

You can recycle plastic, paper, and glass, but did you know you can recycle your lingerie, too? However, don’t just drop them off at your local recycling center and hope for the best. Recycling programs like Subset’s (previously Knickey) ensure that your underwear gets properly recycled and doesn’t just end up in a landfill a little further down the line.

Subset partnered with SuperCircle to recycle underwear and use it to create new materials such as furniture batting, insulation, and carpet padding. Keep an eye out for other similar programs and ensure that your end-of-life undies get a whole new lease on life. 

tips for disposing of lingerie sustainably

2) Donate them 

One of the most obvious options when disposing of any unwanted garment is to donate it. Of course, when it comes to lingerie and underwear of any kind, you need to consider the condition and hygiene of the item before giving it away. 

Any underwear you donate needs to be in very good condition (think: still new or barely worn) for it to be accepted. Before making a donation to a local charity or thrift store, check that your undies are basically new and that there are no loose threads or tiny holes. The better condition the underwear is in, the more likely a donation station is to accept it. 

If the undies are not considered to be in good enough condition, the people at these organizations will likely just let you know and point you in a different direction. Either way, there’s a solution here!

3) Patch em up 

patch up or repair old lingerie

Don’t be so hasty to throw away your favorite pair of scanties or little lacy number just because they have the odd hole or tear. There are ways to fix those things! It might even surprise you how easy and simple they are.

Mending is a seriously valuable life skill that everyone should learn. And if you still feel clueless with a needle and thread, now might be a good time to start broadening your horizons. There are plenty of online tutorials that can teach you basic mending, but learning from a friend could also be fun.

4) Take them to a textile recycling center

Lingerie can be challenging to recycle or dispose of sustainably due to the fact that it’s often made from synthetic materials that aren’t appropriate for most textile recycling programs. However, there are some textile recycling centers that optionally process synthetic garments such as lingerie, including bras, nighties, and regular underwear. They can just be a little harder to find. 

Some examples of textile recycling centers that offer this important service include the Bar Recycling Program, Planet Aid, and Terracycle, all of which are based across the US. Conduct a bit of research to find out if any of these organizations are close to you and simply drop off for a no-fuss disposal. 

5) Compost them

Yup, that’s right! You can compost some forms of underwear. But here’s the catch: they have to be made from organic, non-synthetic materials, such as hemp, cotton, silk, bamboo, or linen, all of which are becoming increasingly popular materials for modern underwear brands. 

If your lingerie falls into one of the above categories, the compost process is simple: 

  • Remove all synthetic tags, elastic waistbands, buttons, or bows, etc. 
  • Shred the remaining fabric into a fine, mulch-like consistency 
  • Toss them into your compost 

This is an incredibly satisfying way to dispose of unwanted lingerie, and as more lingerie brands become open to more sustainable textiles, it should become increasingly common as a disposal method. 

6) Use them as pillow stuffing

use old clothes and lingerie as pillow stuffing

If you have a number of old undies that aren’t quite fit for donating but are too synthetic to recycle or compost, use them as stuffing for an upcoming craft project such as pillow-making. When shredded finely, most undies become soft and fluffy, perfect for filling up a homemade cushion or toy.

If you aren’t the crafty type, maybe someone you know is and would like to take the shredded fabrics off your hands. It’s worth a shot and a great solution when you have no other options. 

7) Turn into painting rags 

Another simple but convenient way to upcycle old lingerie is to turn it into a painting rag. However, this one only works if the lingerie in question is decidedly… un-lingerie-esque. Flossy, lacy bits won’t exactly do much in the way of absorption, but garments with a bit more coverage might just!

Turn old lingerie into rags

8) Have a lingerie party with friends 

You’ve heard of Tupperware parties or pleasure parties featuring high-end sex toys. But what about a lingerie party? Swapping lingerie you no longer like or wear for other items that suit your fancy is an effective, sustainable, and truly fun way to dispose of unwanted undies, and you might get something really cute in return. 

Invite a group of friends over and make it a party. Anything that doesn’t get exchanged can be dropped off at a donation organization or disposed of using any of the other methods on this list. 

9) Look out for brands that offer donation or recycling programs 

More and more clothing brands are starting to offer in-house recycling for old garments that customers want to recycle. The North Face and Hanky Panky are just two examples. 

These bodywear brands all offer recycling programs for their products in order to simplify the textile recycling process and contribute to a greener fashion industry. When shopping for undies next time round, look out for brands that offer this service for future reference. 

reduce reuse recycle

The Bottom (Bikini) Line on Tips for Disposing of Lingerie Sustainably

Getting rid of old lingerie and underwear might not be as simple as tossing a peach pip into the back garden, but there are still loads of ways to dispose of these garments without adding strain to the environment.

By donating, composting, or creatively upcycling your old or unwanted undies, you can contribute to a more circular fashion economy that benefits you, the textile industry, and the planet as a whole. So, next time you snap a thong, don’t despair, any of the above options have got you covered.

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