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Clothing & Textiles Recycling

Clothing and textiles are banned from the trash in Massachusetts.

The City of Cambridge offers free weekly curbside textiles collection, as well as drop-off bins at select locations. To schedule your free pick-up, use the Clothing/Textiles Collection tool below. Approximately 95% of textiles and accessories could be reused/repurposed. This initiative supports the city's goals of reducing waste and is launched in accordance with recommendations from the City's Zero Waste Master Plan.


What clothing and textiles are accepted? All clean and dry pieces, even with stains or missing buttons, can be re‐used and repurposed. Don’t forget linens, towels, shoes, and accessories, like hats, gloves, socks, underwear, belts, purses, handbags, of any style, age or condition. For more details see FAQs below.

Schedule a Pick-Up

This is a free service to Cambridge residents, but advanced scheduling is required. To schedule a collection, visit our partner’s HELPSY webpage here

To drop-off your textiles, use the Get Rid of It Right tab below and search “textiles” to find a drop-off bin near you.  

To go back to the main waste collections webpage, click here.

How do I recycle my clothing or textiles?

Sign up for a free at-home pick at this webpage. Or bring your clothing to a drop off bin.

 

What textiles are accepted?

Anything you can wear, sleep in, or dry yourself off with!
All clean and dry textiles, even torn pieces with stains or missing buttons, can be re‐used and repurposed.

Don’t forget linens, towels, shoes and accessories, like hats, gloves, socks, underwear, belts, ties, purses, handbags, of any style, age or condition.

For a more complete list see here:

Footwear (Tie laces together, if possible) 

  • Shoes
  • Heels 
  • Flats 
  • Sandals 
  • Flip flops
  • Boots (all varieties) 
  • Sneakers 
  • Cleats
  • Slippers

Clothing

  • Tops (t-shirts, blouses, shirts, tank tops)
  • Sweaters 
  • Sweatshirts
  • Dresses 
  • Outerwear (coats, jackets, blazers)
  • Bottoms (pants, slacks, jeans, sweatpants, skirts, shorts) 
  • Suits
  • Pajamas
  • Intimates (slips, bras, underwear, socks)
  • Baby Clothing 

Accessories:

  • Hats
  • Bags (Pocketbooks, backpacks, duffle bags, totes) 
  • Belts 
  • Gloves
  • Ties
  • Scarves
  • Bathrobes 
  • Jewelry

Linens

  • Sheets/Pillowcases
  • Blankets 
  • Comforters
  • Curtains/Drape 
  • Aprons
  • Dish Cloths 
  • Table Linens
  • Quilts

Other

  • Halloween Costumes
  • Sports Jerseys
  • Stuffed Animals 
  • Large Fabric Scraps (Larger than a cloth napkin)
  • Throw Pillows

Not Accepted

Small household items (donate)

Bed pillows

Pillows larger than a throw pillow

Small fabric scraps

Electric Blankets

 

 

Do I need to be home for the pick-up?

No. Place your bag(s) of textiles out by 7:00am the morning of the collection with note saying “Textiles Pickup” attached. Put bags in as visible location close to your front door (walkway/porch). The collection crew will pick up your textiles before 4:00 pm. Do not place the items at the curb earlier than 6pm the day before your collection. (Plastic bags are strongly recommended.)

What if I have a problem with my collection?

Who do you contact if you see an overflowing drop-off bin?

If a bin is full, please notify HELPSY at helpsy.co/contact or email info@helpsy.co

How can Non-Profits, Schools and Multi-Family buildings fundraise with Textile Recycling?

Groups can partner and raise money for each pound of textiles created by partnering with the City of Cambridge and HELPSY. We will take care of the logistics!

  •  Have a drop-off bin on site
  • Host a clothing drive
  • Schedule a monthly pick-up

Get in touch and we will see what might work for you! Email recycle@cambridgema.gov

What happens to the materials collected?

Every item is examined by hand. Approximately 95% of all clothing, shoes and other textiles can be given a second life.

  • The best 40-50% are resold as clothes in the US and Latin America — that's what pays for the collections and supports so many American jobs at the sorting and retail companies
  • Another 25% or so are cut into wiping rags for use by different industries, bars, and contractors.
  • The least-useful 20-25% or so would be ground into insulation. This insulation would be used in carpet padding and commercial (not residential) furniture.  

Our textiles recovery partner, HELPSY, is a Certified B Corporation. B Corporations legally must prioritize their environmental mission and workforce well-being, alongside profitability. Proceeds from the sales of clothing pay for:

  • drivers and staff
  • trucks and equipment
  • payments to the City and bin hosts
  • its 200 charity partners and 
  • its local vendors.

You can learn more about HELPSY on their website.

Is there a way to get clothes to local residents in need?

Yes, there are several local efforts to collect and distribute textiles locally.  

We partner with HELPSY because they will accept both good-condition and poor-condition items. And, HELPSY is terrific at the logistics. The expensive part is getting the right clothes to people who want and need them. That is what HELPSY does. Thrift stores also help with this. HELPSY buys more than 40,000 pounds of surplus clothes from Boston-area thrift stores each week. This helps thrift stores turn over their inventory and fund their missions.

Why is textile recycling important?

Clothing and textiles are banned from the trash in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts is running out of space for trash. We need to recycle, compost, and reduce/reuse more! While 95% of all clothing, shoes and other textiles could have a second life, 85% are dumped in the landfill or incinerator. Still, more than 84% of textiles end up in a landfill or an incinerator, according to the EPA.

The apparel industry produces 10% of global carbon emissions and 20% of the world’s industrial water pollution. By recovering textiles from the trash, we can reduce global climate emissions, water consumption, and our waste in landfills.

 

Will HELPSY pick up other items like small household items?

No. HELPSY will only pick-up clothing and textiles. Use the "Get Rid of It Right” tool above to determine how to dispose of these items. 
Page was posted on 11/22/2021 3:46 PM
Page was last modified on 9/25/2023 12:37 PM
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