When I was growing up, the notion of recycling denim meant turning your jeans into something else.
That could have been taking a pair of pants and sewing up the legs to make a skirt.
Or, it could be taking a jean jacket, cutting off the sleeves and converting it into a vest.
Sometimes I might get RIT dye and dye my denim jeans a new color.
Other times I would tie-dye blue jeans with bleach to make them blue and white. However, if you want to do a legit tie dying, this article on the best tie dye kits can help.
Denim recycling and how to recycle jeans
All of that being said, I never consider that denim recycling was a legit thing like recycling plastic bottles or anything else I might put out curbside.
In fact, in researching this article on how you can recycle jeans, I came across a handful of programs that do just that.
- Cotton Inc Blue Jeans Go Green
- Zappos for Good clothing recycling
- Levi’s recycled denim
- Levi’s tailor shop
- Terracycle Zero Waste Box
Now let me explain how each program works to recycle denim and turn jeans into something else without sending them to landfills.
Cotton Inc Blue Jeans Go Green
For many years Cotton Inc. (you know, the “cotton is the fabric of our lives” people) have been spearheading a “blue to green” program that encourages people to recycle their denim.
They’ve partnered with many brands to encourage shoppers to recycle denim, including Zappos and Anthropologie.
In Summer 2022 they partnered with Antropologie.
And if you brought in a pair of jeans to Anthropologie be recycled, you got $20 off a new pair of jeans priced at at least $100.
At the same time you could bring old jeans to White House Black Market to get $5 off new jeans.
There was no price limit on the new spend.
Unfortunately, both promotions are over now.
However, if you visit this page on the Blue Jeans Go Green website, you can find the latest promotion for saving money on clothing when you recycle your jeans.
Denim recycling for 2023
Here are the companies that Blue Jeans Go Green has partnered with for denim recycling in 2023.
American Eagle jeans recycling
Recycle your old jeans in store at American Eagle, and get $10 toward a new pair (plus earn 2x points) – for Real Rewards members!
Frank and Oak denim recycling
Recycle your old denim and enjoy 15% off the purchase of a new pair of Frank And Oak jeans.
Here is how Madewell describes the jeans recycling program it is offering this year:
“Stop by one of our stores with your pre-loved pairs (from any brand: the bootcuts from high school, the baggy ones from your skater days, the bright red skinnies from who knows when). Our friends from Cotton’s Blue Jeans Go Green program will turn them into housing insulation for communities in need—and we’ll give you $20 off new ones.”Madewell.com
Did you know that Madewell offers a healthcare worker discount?
You’ll get 10% off a pair of new PacSun jeans when you bring in an old pair for recycling.
Note: jeans must be at least 90% cotton or more.
Zappos for Good clothing recycling
Unlike the Take Back Bags, you don’t have to pay to recycle your denim clothing through Zappos for Good.
Here’s how the Zappos for Good recycling program works
How does Zappos for Good recycling work
Two, remove any tags, packaging, plastic or non-denim material from the items you’ll be sending in to be recycled.
FYI, you can recycle denim clothing that is dyed, printed, ripped, stained or even in scraps.
So, pretty much anything you have in your drawers or laundry room.
Three, use your own box and fill it with up to 50 pounds of denim.
Four, get your free label on the Zappos for Good page.
Print it out, close your box, attach the label and bring it to a UPS Store or drop off location.
Right now this denim recycling program works in the continental United States only.
How is the denim clothing recycled
When I first heard about denim recycling, I knew that companies were turning old jeans into green insulation for homes.
At that time, much of that insulation ended up in homes that Habitat for Humanity builds.
However, these days meal kit companies are using recycled denim as eco-friendly padding and insulation.
Come to think of it, I may recall getting one of these meal kits that I reviewed in a box with this kind of insulation.
FYI, Zappos for Good will take this recycled denim insulation from meal kits back to be recycled again.
How cool is that?
Levi’s Recycled Denim
Levi’s was one of the first companies to partner with Cotton Inc.
For years now you could bring your old jeans to a Levi’s store and drop it off for recycling.
This is still true today.
From time to time, Levi’s might have a promotion for money off a new pair, like Anthropologie did in Summer 2022.
As of right now, I don’t know of any such promotions going on.
However, when you sign up on the Levi’s website as a new customer, you will get 20% off your first purchase.
In addition, National Recycling Day is November 15th every year.
Maybe there will be a promotion going on then.
Here are national food and other holidays with freebies throughout the year.
Levi’s Tailor Shop
One of the newest ways that Levi’s helps you recycle your clothing is by helping you make old clothing new.
That is, you can work with the Levi’s Tailor Shop to customize jeans that you might otherwise have thrown out.
For example, you could turn pants into a skirt or shorts.
Or make a jacket into a vest.
This page on the Levi’s website explains how the Levi’s Tailor Shop works.
It also offers a guide to where you’ll find Levi’s Tailor Shops near you.
Services at the Levi’s Tailor Shop include repairing jeans or hemming them, much like the alterations that Nordstrom stores offer customers.
Terracycle Zero Waste Box
While Terracycle has tons of free recycling programs, which brands sponsor, their drop off points may not be convenient for you.
That’s one of the reasons that the company created their Zero Waste Box.
The Zero Waste Box ensures hard-to-recycle products and packaging are recycled and not sent to landfills.
This includes clothing.
Textiles are sorted by type and are recycled, upcycled, or reused as appropriate.
Textiles of mixed fibers are converted to energy.
Natural fiber textiles (cotton) are turned into a “shoddy” or insulation.
Synthetic fiber textiles (polyester) are pelletized and made into new plastic products.
Both businesses and homes can purchase a Zero Waste Box.
Then, you can fill it with items that are not easy to recycle and send it back to Terracycle for recycling.