Thursday, May 12, 2011

What to do with old uniforms and other clothing

There is a lot of wastefulness associated with uniforms. Hard-working people wear uniforms, and the uniforms get worn out, so they end up in the trash. A company has an “all-hands meeting” which results in a new uniform, and the old ones get tossed. A waitress throws away a shirt that fell victim to a red wine spill. A disgruntled employee quits and burns his godforsaken uniform. It happens, right? What else can you do? I mean, does Goodwill even want torn, wine-soaked, charred clothing? And really, even in the best condition, an Arby’s polo has pretty limited appeal, and you’re not about to do business with the one Craigslist creep who has a weirdly strong interest in setting up a time to see it. So the uniforms end up in a landfill, where they do little besides effectively suffocating and preserving otherwise highly biodegradable material. It doesn’t have to be this way! You may not realize it, but your uniform has so much more life to live, and so much more to give. Today, I’ll show you how you can allow your uniform to be reincarnated into something that will bring slightly more joy to the world than your old uniform brought you.

The average American throws away 54 pounds of clothing and shoes per year. Nine million TONS of wearables enter the waste stream (a 27% increase from eight years ago). The vast majority (99%) of that waste could have been recycled. Hold on for just a second while I barf everywhere.

Believe it or not, clothing can be recycled. Organizations like Goodwill and the Salvation Army will accept clothing in a variety of conditions. They can resell old clothing, and items that aren’t sold can be donated or handed over to textile recovery facilities. These facilities separate the items into different categories based on their type and condition. Some items are simply used as rags. Others can be broken down into fibers and made into something completely new, such as upholstery, insulation, building materials, and even new uniforms.

You may even have recycled clothing in your closet or as part of your uniform! If you don't, you shouldn't feel the need to rush out and buy recycled clothing. It kind of defeats the purpose. But if you're already in the market for something new, try finding a recycled version. Here are a few that I found.
Making new polyester uses a lot of energy and petroleum, and polyester does not degrade easily if at all. Recycling polyester is a great way to keep it out of the landfills. This cap by Port Authority is made with recycled polyester. It's moisture-wicking and provides UV protection.
One of my favorite brands for chef clothing, Uncommon Threads, makes a line of recycled chef apparel that utilizes post-consumer waste. It’s called greenTAB, and it features the same great quality and style as the rest of their products. Here's a great chef coat from the Uncommon Threads greenTAB line. These people are smiling because they're not wrecking the environment. 
Post-consumer waste includes things like old clothes that we get rid of. Pre-consumer waste is what's left over after the manufacturing process, like scraps on the cutting room floor. This tote bag is made from 100% recycled pre-consumer waste. It's perfect for carrying everything from granola to your favorite peace pipe. 


  1. Thank you, Miranda! I'm glad you like them!

  2. i think that old uniforms can be a handy bag rather than a rag.

    ~Plain T-Shirts are available at UniformPoint