baled textilesBusinesses such as hotels, healthcare facilities, colleges & universities, and retail operations often have textiles they no longer need. The majority of textiles, including apparel, linens, and other fabrics, can be reused or converted into new products rather than thrown away. It is important to collect and recover textiles separately, as they do not belong in recycling containers of any kind and can cause equipment damage and worker safety challenges at recycling facilities. There is a growing infrastructure for textile recovery in Massachusetts, and textiles are a proposed waste ban material in the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Draft 2020-2030 Solid Waste Master Plan, which would prohibit them from disposal.

How to Recover Textiles

There are different opportunities to recover textiles depending on the quantity, type, and quality of materials. Textiles can be recovered as long as they are clean, dry, and odorless; items will not be accepted by textile recovery outlets if they are wet, moldy, or contaminated with oil or other hazardous substances. There are a number of factors to consider and questions to ask when you connect with a textile reuse organization or processor.

  • Check with the organization about specifics on the types of textiles accepted, minimum quantities, and how the material should be prepared and transported. For example, material may need to be baled or stored on-site until a minimum quantity is achieved.
  • Some reuse organizations will provide businesses or institutions with an on-site donation bin. This may be a good option for entities with a variety of reusable textile types, such as retail stores, college and university campuses, or multi-family commercial properties. Bins can be public-facing or accessible by employees only. There are many non-profit and for-profit organizations that site bins; check to be sure that the textiles you generate are compatible with their process.
  • Businesses with outdated uniforms or other branded material may want to utilize textile destruction. This process shreds the fabric before recycling to remove any identifiable information, and is a service offered by some textile processors.

Use the RecyclingWorks Find-a-Recycler tool or connect with Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (SMART) to identify textile recovery outlets near you. Contact RecyclingWorks if you need help getting started or identifying the best outlet for your unwanted material and specific needs. For example, we can help you identify entities that provide an on-site collection bin or offer textile destruction.

What happens to textiles after they are collected?

Most textile collectors, charity organizations, and processors will separate out material that may be re-sold or reused as-is. There are both domestic and international outlets for these textiles. The remaining material can be converted into industrial wiping cloths or shredded and converted into new products such as insulation or carpet padding.

Learn more about recycling other materials

Additional Resources