How to Deal With Worn-Out Underwear -- 8 Eco-Friendly Solutions
In a fast fashion world, most of us have an overflowing drawer of undergarments: countless styles, colors, and ideal occasions (including those that serve as mementos for lucky days or first dates). In a modern fashion scene that is choking on overconsumption and waste, we all know how important it is to recycle our clothing.
While underwear may not often be the first thing we think of when thinking about clothing waste, it does contribute to it. The fashion sector’s clothing waste problem is a growing issue, expected to reach a staggering 134 million tonnes of textiles thrown away annually by 2030. So understanding how to dispose of old underwear sustainably helps to lower our overall clothing waste footprint.
What to do with our old underwear? First, let's take a look at sustainable underwear fabric.
The underwear materials we buy ultimately impact how they can be disposed of sustainably at the end of their useful life. This is down to the fact that some fabric decompose naturally, and some don’t.
When shopping for underwear, look out for garments made from biodegradable natural products, including fabrics like organic cotton, linen, and bamboo.
By purchasing natural, biodegradable fabrics, you can not only help reduce the 700,000 microplastics released during the washing process of your regular laundry, but also expand your underwear end-of-life options.
Since natural fibers are generally biodegradable, they break down back into the environment. It might even mean that your favorite pair of underwear will one day be composted in the garden!
No matter how supportive and sustainable these organic bras and organic underwearare, they will eventually come to the end of their natural life.
Instead of tossing worn-out underwear and dyed sports bras in the trash, put some sustainable ideas into repurposing old underwear and bras.
1. Make a Mop
If the old underwear is to be reused, it still needs to be washed. You can cut the old underwear into strips, then tie them with wire, use them as a mop, and recycle them.
2. Make a Rag
Rags are a reusable alternative to disposable paper towels and other disposable paper products. Your old panties could make a great wood-polishing wipe, or even a zero-waste toilet paper solution.
Cut the used underwear into cotton cloth strips and turn them into rags. The material of the underwear is relatively absorbent. It is very easy to use for wiping things, and it can also be used to polish shoes at ordinary times. Not only does it help save textile waste in landfills, it also saves you from having to buy new cleaning cloths.
3. Turn into Hair Accessories
Hair accessories might not be the first thing we think of when discussing how to recycle underwear, but it's a great option. Cute patterns on underwear fabrics can get a second life as hair ties. Since the strips should ideally be 10x40cm, this method is especially useful if you have some old boxers who need a new life.
4. Pillow Filler
They can be chopped and used as pillow filling.
5. Make Dog Toys
Making a DIY eco-friendly dog toy is super easy and the perfect answer to disposing of old men's underwear. Just like you would wear a t-shirt, just cut the thread for men's boxers or men's briefs and knit into a dog toy!
Turn to Textile Recycling Organizations
6. Textile Recycling Organizations
If your unwanted panties are worn beyond recovery, you can still dispose of your old panties sustainably. Textile recycling organizations generally recycle clean textiles in any condition. These recycling organizations are a convenient way to dispose of old textiles and support a move away from excess waste in the fashion industry. Don't forget to wash before throwing!
Composted Natural Fabrics
7. Make a Plant Tie
Most undergarments are made from durable yet still soft materials that are ideal for re-use as ties to hold plants on stakes for support as they grow. Simply cut the fabric into strips and use it as a plant tie. Since many underwear come in bright colors, it can even help add a stylish pop of color to your vegetable patch.
8. Biodegrade Your Underwear
The magic of natural biodegradable fabrics is that they break down back into nature. For underwear to break down, they must be made from 100% natural biodegradable fabrics, so while this may not be an option for all garments, it's a highly sustainable way to get rid of natural fabrics. To make the underwear biodegradable, you may need to cut off the elastic waistband.
Once you've determined that a piece of clothing is biodegradable, you can add it to compost to decompose it back into nature. Whether it's new underwear that you just couldn't feel, or an old favorite that can't be used anymore, recycled underwear can give them a new look.
So the next time you need to update your underwear, try making some stylish hair accessories, donate to someone in need, or even try simply adding items you don't need to your compost pile. That underwear could get a whole new life.