I have a problem what to do with used cotton clothing (socks etc.).

I live in Germany, I have the following choices

  • glass - obviously not the case
  • paper - could cotton be converted into maculature?
  • valuable materials - designed for plastics, metal etc. - not sure what with textiles
  • compost - well, it's organic matter, anyway
  • WC (toilet) - well, theoretically the bacteria in wastewater plant could deal with it as well
  • 2
    One option is to bring your old clothes to a H&M store. According to their site: "Textiles that are no longer suitable to wear are converted into other products, such as cleaning cloths. Textiles that can’t be reused get a new chance as textile fibres, or are used to manufacture products such as damping and insulating materials for the auto industry." I'm not sure if H&M collects old clothes in all countries and stores.
    – THelper
    Sep 28, 2013 at 11:09

2 Answers 2


I think there are textile recycling collection points in Germany. E.g. http://www.altkleider.net/. Maybe ask at your local city office for more information.

Otherwise, composting is better than land-fill or burning, but recycling the fibres would turn out to be much more sustainable (just as for paper).

  • The textile 'recycling' are the companies that are selling good clothing, not the used one. I don't know what they are doing with used clothing... Sep 27, 2013 at 4:51
  • They recycle good clothing by selling it to local second-hand stores and less good clothing to markets in other parts of the world. Used and unwearable clothing is sorted by fibres and processed either into cleaning cloths for industry or the fibres are "processed further" (whatever that means, presumably something like insulating material). I guess you have to choose whether you think that supporting industry by freely providing your used socks is sustainable or not.
    – Earthliŋ
    Sep 27, 2013 at 9:19
  • 1
    @Earthling If that industry would otherwise be consuming additional natural resources to produce and sell similar products, it's probably better to just give them the old socks. If recycling didn't support industry by generating profits, companies in our profit-driven economy would not make it their business to recycle waste. Sep 27, 2013 at 17:05

I just found yesterday a youtube video related to this topic (also in german). Of course the video is a kind of investigative journalism and maybe doesn't mention all important facts. But if this is the truth, all people who throw away their clothes in container of social organisations like the red cross in germany (also called Altkleidersammlung) should think about changing their behavior and bring them somewhere else, helping people in their area and don't help any companies making money with all the old clothes by selling them again to poorer countries. The problem with this is, these companies destroy parts of the industry in the countries they sell the old clothes. Maybe these clothes go back again to countries they had been produced before, which really would be crazy.

I prefer to upcycle the clothes by myself. I started to cut t-shirts and trousers to a cord with which I can crochet again something new. Even Urban Knitting might be a very interesting option.

If somebody has information if the facts of the video are not true or maybe further facts that proof the truth I'm waiting for comments!

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