Kane County Government
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Kane County Recycles

clothing and textiles

According to the U.S. EPA, a whopping 85% of all discarded textiles – 13​ million tons in 2018 – are sent to U.S. landfills every year. The amount of textile material being landfilled has increased tenfold since 1960, and is only increasing further with the advent of "fast fashion," mass-production of clothing that is designed to be trendy and cheap, but not durable. This recent Bloomberg article (with a rather disturbing ticker counting the number of garments thrown away since opening the page) covers the issue well. 

coat hangers with a sign saying buy less, buy better 

​Image via CanvaPro

​Although they do not and cannot address all the problems associated with fast fashion and over-consumption of clothing, the second hand clothing market and textile recycling offer us ways to keep unwanted garments, accessories and home textiles out of landfills. Even when clothing can't be worn any more due to rips, holes, stains, etc., it can see new life in industrial applications like upholstery​ or insulation. See more information about Kane County's textile​ recycling program below. Also check out our brochure on Sustainable Fashion Tips.​

Our Program​

We accept fabric items for reuse and recycling at our Batavia and West Dundee Centers and at our Aurora pop-ups. Find addresses, dates and hours for Kane County Recycling Centers​.

​​We Accept:​ Clean clothing; shoes; apparel accessories (belts, hats, scarves, purses); bedding, towels, and other household textiles. Items can be in any condition as long as they are clean and not wet or moldy. Rips, tears, stains that won't wash out, missing buttons, zippers, etc. are all fine! See more info on item acceptance here

a box with a recycling symbol filled with clothes in a closet
​Image via CanvaPro

Partners: Kane County's electronics recycler, eWorks has partnered with RewearAble to collect clothing and textiles for reuse and recycling. Both organizations are non-profits that provide job training and sustainable employment with fair wages to people with developmental disabilities. All textiles collected in Kane County are sorted by eWorks' staff at their Elk Grove headquarters.

eworks rewear.png 

Following drop-off, clothes and other items are sorted before following one of three paths to reuse or recycling: 
  • ​Top picks are designer clothes in good, new or near new condition, which are laundered and sold within the US, with the proceeds covering the cost of collection and transport and supporting RewearAble's non-profit mission. 
  • Non-designer clothes in good repair, which makes up the largest proportion of items, are sold in bulk to wholesalers who distribute them to non-profit groups supplying clothes to the needy or sell them to brokers who ship to areas of need in ​developing countries for use.
  • Textiles in poor repair are routed for industrial use, either as cleaning/painting rags or shredded to make insulation or upholstery stuffing.

DuPage County Drop-off locations for the same program as described above.​

Other Options for Textile Reuse and Recycling

Go Shopping in your Closet: ​Is there something you like but haven't been wearing because it is slightly damaged or doesn't fit quite right? There are a number of tailors/alteration specialists locally who can have your favorite items looking and fitting like new. 

Garage Sale: ​If you want to keep all the profit from selling your old things, a garage sale is the way to go! You have full control of setting your prices and offering deals. 

Consignment Stores: ​A consignment store agrees to list and display clothing, accessories or other items on behalf of the item owners at the store. When an item sells, the store and the item owner both receive a share of the sale price. Clothing consignment stores are typically looking for high end designer brands, one-of-a-kind pieces and like ​new items.

Online Consignment: ​There are a number of specialized online platforms for people to sell their unwanted clothes. These are generally set up as online consignment stores, where it is free to create an account and list items, but the platform keeps part of the sale when each item sells. There's a bit more work involved than with brick-and-mortar consignment because the seller will be responsible for posting photos, writing item descriptions, answering customer questions, and shipping items out. Apps like ThredUP, Depop and Poshmark​ specialize in clothing and accessory sales. Sites like eBay and Facebook Marketplace​ can generally be used to sell a wide variety of items. As with brick-and-mortar stores, designer brands and unique items in like new conditions tend to sell best.

Second Hand for Profit: ​For-profit second hand clothing stores typically buy clothing from the public at bulk rates, then sort it, mark it up, and sell it for a profit. They often specialize in certain markets (e.g. baby or children's' clothing, sports clothing, teen clothing, etc.). Again, these stores are typically looking for popular brands and like new or gently used items.

Second Hand Not-for-Profit: ​These are second hand clothing stores run by​ registered non-profit organizations. Typically, the clothing that they sell is donated by members of the public and the proceeds of sales support a not-for-profit mission. Well-known examples include​ Goodwill, Salvation Army and AmVets, though there are also smaller, more local charitable thrift shops.

Charitable Donation: These are permanent or occasional clothing drives with no sales component. Donated items are sorted, sometimes washed or mended as needed, and given to the needy for use.

Clothing Boxes: You have probably seen these drop boxes in various parking lots around the region. Usually, the operators of these boxes are for-profit companies, though they sometimes partner with non-profits or governments. For example, the sale of the items from a drop box in a church parking lot will usually benefit both the box operator and the church. Look for boxes that are made of durable materials (metal), are clearly marked with a company name, and that are maintained well.

Corporate/Retail Programs: Some corporations have adopted recycling programs as part of their commitments to improving sustainability. Retailers may accept items of their own brand or items of certain types belonging to any brand for recycling. Examples of major retailers with in-store drop offs include Nike, DSW, Levi's, H&M, The North Face, Madewell and Patagonia. Some retailers provide mail-in recycling kits or shipping labels to customers. Gap, Universal Standard and Carter's are examples of retailers using the mail-in model.

Buy Recycled? 
Please note: Information above is intended as a guide to residents. Any omissions are unintentional. Additions, updates, or corrections should be referred to the Kane County Recycling Office at recycle@countyofkane.org.

Buy Recycled?

Most of today's recycled polyester is technically down-cycled. It is usually made from plastic bottles or food packaging, which could be recycled into packaging again multiple times. When PET from bottles is woven into polyester or poly-blend fabric, it is generally never recycled again. Another issue is that many textiles purported to contain recycled polyester actually don't. For more on these issues and potential future technologies, see this WIRED article. It​ is better for the environment to reduce clothing consumption and to buy second-hand than it is to buy new clothes containing recycled content.​