What To Do With Old Jeans? 7 Ways To Get Rid Of Them Sustainably!
If you’re wondering what to do with old jeans, this article is just what you’re looking for.
Whether it’s because you don’t like them anymore or because they’ve been outgrown, there are lots of things to do with your old or worn jeans that do not involve the landfill.
From how to upcycle denim jeans and no-sew options, to donating and recycling, we will explore everything you need to know to help you figure out what to do with those old jeans you don’t know what to do with.
In This Article:
1. Don’t Despair REPAIR your old jeans
When I was a kid we mended everything from socks to jeans to shoes and even bras. We never EVER threw clothing away because it was missing a button or had a small hole. We fixed it.
Fast forward to today and it’s a completely different tale thanks to fast fashion brands who offer clothing that’s so cheap, making many people think it's easier to buy new than repair. We’ve also kind of become lazy! We’d rather spend more money than take the time to learn to darn a sock or mend a hole.
We need to move away from this mentality and get back to mending our clothes and creating a minimalist wardrobe we can be proud of.
If you are like me and can’t even thread a needle LOL, there are options. You can reach out to the brand directly, some offer repair services.
Patagonia’s IronClad Guarantee offers lifetime repairs no matter how the item was damaged. With Nudie Jeans, you can get a free repair kit sent to you or you can drop the time off in the store.
Like reparable shoes, reparable jeans are possible if you find a good tailor. Many dry cleaners offer this service and a quick Google search of “tailors near me” will serve up tons of local options.
2. Donate your old jeans
You can donate old jeans, you just need to make sure they are pre-washed and in decent condition. If they have holes or are stained it will be harder to donate them. Most donation stores will take lightly-worn garments like jeans.
If you have old jeans with holes in them you can consider recycling them, but there are a few things to keep in mind, which brings us to our next point….
3. Recycle your denim at a drop-off location
Can old jeans be recycled? Yes! One way is denim recycling drop-off programs like the ones from the American Textile Recycling Services (ATRS), which is the fastest-growing donation service company in the USA.
Simply drop off jeans and other textiles at your nearest ATRS Clothing & Shoe Donation Bin and they will do the rest!
ATRS drop-off bin is different from the ones you see from Savers (Value Village in Canada). The clothes you put in those bins are not being “recycled” they are being “upcycled”. It’s an important distinction.
These types of stores, known commonly as thrift shops, don’t have the infrastructure in place to actually recycle clothing. They either re-sell it or bail it out and ship it to developing nations. Whereas organizations like ATRS with its partners, take your old denim and ensure almost everything is used.
You can find a bin near you by simply calling their 24-Hour Hotline with your zip code, city, or neighborhood location.
The Blue Jeans Go Green™ program collects denim so that it can be recycled back to its original fiber state and transformed into something new.
This program is run by Cotton Incorporated, “a not-for-profit founded in 1970 to support the global cotton industry.”
We prefer organic cotton over conventional cotton, but I do like to see large organizations implement these kinds of initiatives. To date, they have diverted 2,290+ tons of denim from landfill and recycled over 4,580,000 pieces of denim.
Brands that are part of The Blue Jeans Go Green include: American Eagle and Ariat as well as eco-friendly brands like:
- Frank and Oak: get 15% off the purchase of a new pair of Frank And Oak jeans when you drop off your old jeans.
- Madewell: Drop off your denim year-round at any Madewell location and get $20 off a new pair of jeans
Jean giant Levi’s is also part of this program. Select Levi's® stores (and Outlets) will have a recycling box where you can drop off any denim from any brand and give your jeans a new life! They also have in-store tailor shops for repairs.
4. Recycle your old denim via mail
If you don’t want to go hunting for a bin in your area there are brands and programs available to you via mail. Cotton Incorporated’s Recycle By Mail program win partnership with “Zappos for Good” makes this really easy.
Step 1 -put your jeans in a box, make sure that are at least 90% cotton and “don’t have any hangers, tags, stickers, or plastic attached”.
Step 2 - Create or log in to your Zappos or Amazon account and print a shipping label to include with your denim.
Step 3 - mail the box!
Other brands that offer this type of mail-in option include Reformation RefRecycling, Patagonia, and Neem London.
5. Sell your old jeans
If you have old jeans lying in the back of your closet taking up space, it might be time to part with them.
Maybe they don't fit, or maybe they are out of style, whatever the reason selling your old jeans might be a great way to put some of that green back in your wallet.
Selling used clothes online is so easy with brands like Poshmark, Depop, eBay, and thredUP.
For high-end and couture jeans you might want to look at your local consignment shop.
6. Creative ways to upcycle your old jeans
This is not for everyone, I realize that. I can't sew to save my life, but I can find fun ways to use old things, like my jeans!
If you are not familiar with the term upcycling? It simply means to take an old item that would’ve otherwise been discarded and transform it into something of equal or greater value like the great ideas featured here.
Ideas on how to upcycle old jeans:
Now we’ve come to the fun part for the crafty among us. So if you’re into crafts we’ve gathered some of our favorite ideas on what to do if you want to upcycle your old jeans. We’ve also gathered a separate list of some no-sew upcycling options if these are a bit too involved.
Upcycled baby shoes
Try your hand at making these adorable baby shoes out of your old jeans.
Repurposed kid’s aprons
Who knew your old pair of jeans could make a nifty pair of aprons to keep the little ones less paint or food covered during craft time or as your little sous-chefs? Complete with a decorative touch and a front pocket, this makes for yet another adorable solution for upcycling old jeans.
Turn your old denim into these handy denim pouches perfect for keeping change or whatever you see fit.
Yet another practical lease on upcycling old jeans, this DIY Tote Bag looks great and can be used for a variety of purposes.
This DIY Upcycled Denim Backpack takes things to another level. If you are up for the challenge the video offers step-by-step instructions on how to turn your old jeans into an awesome backpack for under 5 bucks.
DIY recycled basket
For lovers of keeping tidy, or anyone looking to make a useful item for the home, this recycled denim basket is a great way to weave your old jeans away from the landfill.
A little more complicated than the previous basket, but quite aesthetically pleasing and versatile, this DIY Rope Basket would make a sturdy addition to your sewing room or any other room in your home.
Another very practical solution for upcycling your old denim, this project helps you turn your old jeans into a rug.
Turn old jeans into a dress
If you’re wondering how to reuse old jeans to make new clothes, this is for you. You can turn your old jeans into an amazing dress like the one featured in this project.
Turn old jeans into a jacket
You can also try your hand at upcycling your old jeans into a jacket!
7. No-sew ways to upcycle old jeans
If you are wondering what you can do with old jeans without any sewing, there are still simple, practical, and fun options for you too. Here are some of our favorites:
Upcycled pen pots
This simple project can require as little as a pair of your old jeans, good scissors, and some safety pins. The result will be an adorable solution to organize pens or knick-knacks. You can also choose to use a sewing machine if you’d like.
Feather wall décor
This is a lovely decorative no-sew option to turn your old denim jeans into feather wall decor. It can be made from found objects too.
For all our pet owners and lovers out there, here you’ll find several no-sew dog toy ideas that will truly put your denim to the test and give them another very worthwhile use.
You can even make a handy apron in no time with a pair of your old jeans and some good scissors.
Why is it important to know What To Do With Old Blue Jeans
Like a lot of our clothing, denim production can come at a hefty cost to the environment and to those involved in its production. From farming the cotton required to weave the fabric, to sewing, to getting the final products in our hands, there are lots of issues along the way.
One of the main issues with jeans is that conventional manufacturing processes can be very chemical-intensive.
For one, conventional jeans are usually made of cotton which is known to be a very pesticide-intensive crop when produced unsustainably. This poses important health concerns for the workers and the ecosystems that are exposed to these chemicals. Cotton is also a very water-intensive crop.
The synthetic fibers used in conventional jeans are also an issue; often derived from fossil fuel bi-products or require chemical-intensive processes that are harmful to workers and to the environment as well.
Some synthetic fabrics are also linked to microplastic pollution which winds up in the ocean, in the food chain, and in our bloodstream. In fact, researchers from the University of Toronto have found blue jean fibers in far-off regions like the Arctic, far from human activity.
The most chemical-intensive part of making jeans has to do with the dyeing and finishing processes, however. Despite what you might imagine, the wastewater from these processes is far too often released right into the waterways in communities in which they are manufactured without being treated.
This means that all the toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and other waste products from these processes wind up in the waterways.
Altogether, a conventional pair of jeans requires an average of 1,500 gallons of water, and it is truly wise to try and make the most of them once you are finished with them.
The people who make our jeans in conventional supply chains are often very vulnerable to unethical labor practices too.
From practices like child labor and slave labor to unfairly low wages and unsafe working conditions; the fashion industry is riddled with an unsavory underbelly, even when it comes to the most trusted and ubiquitous brands. Learn more about these issues in this article about slow fashion and fast fashion.
For a long time, companies were not held accountable for their negative impact on the environment or for the well-being of their workers. With that, we can often accidentally support unethical brands that not only harm the environment but their workers as well. The garment industry is no different.
With that, and the 10 million tonnes of clothing that are sent to landfills every year in North America alone, making the most of your old jeans, wherever they come from, is a great choice for the environment and for the planet.
If you want to replace your old jeans with a more ethical pair check out this article featuring some of my favorite sustainable ethical jeans.
The bottom line when it comes to what to do with old jeans
So what to do with old worn-out jeans then? Thankfully, lots of awesome humans have also asked themselves the same question and have figured out some great ways to rise to the challenge. Let's start with the basics: donating and recycling.
When it comes to figuring out what to do with old worn-out jeans there are several options to suit different needs and lifestyles.
From recycling them to turning them into clever crafts, your old jeans can find a second life beyond the landfill. You may even stand to make some extra cash by selling them online too.
If you are looking for a new pair of jeans to replace your old ones, have a peek at these online thrift stores and if you don’t quite know how to go about it here are my best thrifting shopping tips.
Did you know we have a ton of guides here on The Eco Hub that will help you get rid of your old stuff responsibly including:
- What to do with old shoes
- What to do with old socks
- What to do with old bras
- What to do with old plastic Tupperware
- How to dispose of old pillows
- What to do with clothing donations
- How to dispose of old, broken cell phones
- How to recycle e-waste properly
- How to sell used clothes online
- How to recycle plant pots
- How to recycle cardboard properly
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Hi Candice! Are you familiar with For Days Zero Waste Clothing? I just downsized and the textiles that I couldn’t donate or repurpose (into rag rugs, pillow covers, etc) I sent to ForDays.com using their Take Back Bags. Each bag costs $20, comes with a prepaid shipping label and holds 25 lbs. You can put fabric scrapes, clothes with holes, stains, etc. as long as the textiles have been washed. Every bit is repurposed and you get a $20 store credit for each bag you purchase. You can then use your credit to buy sustainable clothing from their website!
Thanks so much for sharing Julie,
all my best