5 Surprising Ways to Recycle Your Underwear

By Emily Main

Here's the Victoria's Secret that your garbage man hasn't been telling you: Your underwear is 100 percent recyclable. While he may not want your old undies, there are plenty of people who do. And the Environmental Protection Agency wishes you would hand it over. According to the agency's estimates, 80 percent of unwanted textiles wind up in landfills, and each of us tosses 37 pounds of clothing per year. So the next time you think about tossing those holey drawers in the trash, toss them in your washing machine instead, and then hand them over to one of these organizations:

#1. Donate. Goodwill stores will take—CLEAN!—undies and bras in pretty much any condition (again, reiterating that they must be clean!). If they aren't in good enough condition to resell, the nonprofit sells them to rag houses that shred the material and use it in various applications, such as furniture or automobile stuffing, or for industrial cleaning rags. Goodwill uses the money from the sale to fund its job-training programs.

You can send any old, unusable bras to BreastTalk, where they will be used to generate cash for breast cancer research. Or, if your bras are still in wearable condition, send them to The Bra Recyclers, a textile recycling firm that sends donated bras to needy women around the world.

#2: Get Crafty. Check out this cute little purse you can make from a used bra on Craft Bits.

More recycling tips:
A Heimlich Maneuver for Catalog-Choked Mailboxes
The Nickel Pincher: Stop Trashing Those Towels
The Nickel Pincher: How to Recycle Almost Anything
Recycle Your Computer with a Clean Conscience

#3: Compost 'em. For 100 percent cotton bras and undies, cut off the elastic waistband and cut the cotton into strips or squares and put it in your compost bin! (Synthetic materials, such as Lycra, won't compost, so send any garments containing Lycra blends to the charities above.)

#4: Toss it—in a box. You may have seen those clothing drop boxes that are popping up with increasing frequency in communities nationwide. They're normally operated by for-profit businesses (not nonprofits like Goodwill) that collect your used clothes and sell the garments or the materials to the textile recycling industry. If you can't find a charity nearby that will take your used underthings, you can locate boxes operated by one such company, USAgain, on its website.

#5: Help a kid. All kids need a pair of clean underwear when they go out—they do, after all, listen to their mothers. When your kids grow out of their Underroos, send those in good condition, cleaned, to Project Underwear, which will distribute them in developing countries and send you a postcard telling you where they ended up.

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Note: The Rodale Research Feed features new research findings that may include preliminary or unconfirmed results. Check with a healthcare provider, or an appropriate advisor you trust, before making any significant changes based on these reports.

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