Do you throw out or recycle your bras? I always feel guilty about tossing my old bras in the trash, suspecting that all that wire, lace, and elastic can't be great for the environment.
And I wouldn't be wrong. Manufactured textiles (including common synthetics found in bras such as polyester, spandex, and nylon) may take from 20 to 200 years to completely break down. That's a big difference from the natural fibers found in a cotton t-shirt, which only take 6 months to decompose.
The average US consumer throws away 70 lbs of clothing per year. According to The Atlantic, "Americans recycle or donate only 15 percent of their used clothing, and the rest—about 10.5 million tons a year—goes into landfills, giving textiles one of the poorest recycling rates of any reusable materials." With slower rates of decomposition, literally tons of today's used bras may be around for decades, if not centuries.
One reason I've been reluctant to recycle my own bras is that I'm not sure where and what to donate. I've got some ragged ones, and others that never quite fit and are in almost new condition. I'd like the hardly worn cast-offs to go to someone in need.
Here are 9 ways to recycle well-worn or gently used bras. These for- and non-profits will put your bras to good use and keep them out of landfills.
1. The Bra Recyclers. Launched by an Arizona textile recycling company looking to make a difference. They distribute gently used and new bras to over 70 organizations serving homeless or domestic violence victims all over the world. Drop off locations can be found in the US, Canada, and in Puerto Rico. You can also mail in your cleaned bras or hold your own bra collection event.
2. Bra Recycling Agency. This company takes all donated bras, pulverizes them, and turns them into special event carpeting. Monies made from selling bra metal and wire are given to breast cancer research. You can text BRA to 79274 to receive a mailing label.
3. Breast Oasis. A non-profit providing needy women with clean, gently used bras. Multiple donation locations in 13 states, or via PayPal for a small fee that goes toward costs of shipping. A unique aspect of the program is the assignment of a Bra Identification Number (B.I.N.) that allows donor and recipient to private message each other, if they'd like.
4. Free the Girls. Non-profit working with safe houses that help survivors of human trafficking to make a living by selling used clothing. They take new or gently used bras. There are multiple drop-offs throughout the US and Canada, or you can hold a bra drive event of your own. They also accept bra donations via mail, asking a "buck a bra" to cover shipping costs.
5. Goodwill Industries. Clean, gently used bras are sold in their stores and benefit work training programs. Bras that can no longer be worn are sold for scrap but still benefit this non-profit. Click here to find a Goodwill donation drop off. There are more than 2900 locations throughout the US and Canada, and all donations are tax-deductible.
6. Oxfam. This UK-based non-profit sells gently used bras in one of its 700 stores or recycles old bras at their recycling facility. Oxfam's The Big Bra Hunt also ships bras to an Oxfam-run social enterprise in Senegal, where women workers sell donated clothing. Oxfam is a 70-year-old agency dedicated to tackling the root causes of poverty and helping needy populations all over the world.
7. Soma. This clothing company holds an annual #1MillionBras drive to benefit the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Simply bring in new or gently used bras to any Soma store during the #1MillionBras campaign -- currently running through September 10th.
8. Uplift Bras. A charitable organization that collects new and second-hand bras and distributes them to needy communities. Based out of Australia and New Zealand, they supply bras to women in third-world countries. Learn more about their drop off locations or where to mail donations. They also take mastectomy bras and forms.
9. USAgain. Another for-profit textile recycling company that has donation bins located all over the US and takes any and all clean and dry clothing. They wholesale used clothing to second hand shops throughout the world. Their charitable efforts are focused on the environment.
Do you donate or recycle your bras? Do you have an organization or cause you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!