Underwear is 6% of womenswear product sold in the US + UK. (source: EDITED Market Intelligence Platform). That is a lot of product!
But what do you do once your underwear is at the end of its wearable life? This is a question that we often ask ourselves. There is no perfect answer but we identify some options in this blog post.
Bras and underwear are items that most people do not buy second hand. So it is unlikely that you can drop it off at the local second-hand shop or offer it up on your local buy nothing group.
Underwear is also intricate – it is made with many different types of material – cotton, silk, polyester, nylon, spandex, elastic, wires, etc. and it might have some fancy designs – ruffles, hooks, etc. This complication will make it harder to recycle.
Here are some ways to lower the impact of your underwear consumption.
1. Buy with sustainable materials – try to buy bras and underwear that are made of as few different materials as possible plus made of natural materials such as cotton, linen, bamboo, hemp and cork. In some instances you could compost your underwear if it is made of natural materials after removing the elastic. Having as few materials used in making underwear it is easier to potentially breakdown the material and recycle it.
2. Use your bra’s and underwear as long as possible – so take care of it and wash in cold water on gentle cycle, line dry, etc. Mend it and repair it if you can.
3. Consider using one of these take back programs. We haven’t fully vetted them but they claim they recycle
Parade and Terracycle have partnered to accept underwear (not bras) for take back – they will shred the material and use it to make new products. More information here.
Free the Girls program: Donate your bras to the Free the Girls program that takes clean, gently used bra donations. The bras are shipped to human trafficking survivors in Mozambique, El Salvador and Costa Rica, so they can sell them and establish secondhand apparel resale businesses, ultimately as a longterm source of income.
Harper Wilde: The bra company Harper Wilde has a takeback program, they accept any brand.
The Bra Recyclers accepts gently used bras and donates to non profits around the globe. More details here on how to get a label and where to ship.
Knickey, an underwear company, also has a takeback program. You have to pay a $5 shipping label fee. More details on their FAQ page. They take accept undies, socks, bras, tights, and cloth face masks from any brand!
If you have some ideas post below in the comments!
Photo credit: jeansandateacup.com