Even though clothing is reusable and often recyclable, it must be channeled appropriately. The goal is to keep it out of our waste stream for the longest possible period of time. The good news is that doing this costs the City and our neighbors absolutely nothing! The infrastructure to handle clothing has already been built by charitable organizations. All you have to do is partner with them
Please do not place clothing in your blue recycling cart. In that cart, clothing is considered a contaminant and it will be diverted to a landfill. Instead, the City of Fort Lauderdale encourages neighbors to follow these steps for disposing of clothing.
First, evaluate what you have. Can you give it to a family member or friend? Would a consignment shop be interested in it? Can you sell it online? If so, these are perfectly good ways to reuse clothing and to keep it from entering our waste stream. If not:
Gently used clothing, or items that need minor repair, can be donated.
- The preferred method of donation is to go to a manned drop location operated by a Section 501(c)(3) charity. These may be brick-and-mortar stores, specialized warehouses, or mobile units with permission to set up in private shopping centers. By handing your items directly to an official representative, you have the peace of mind of knowing that they are going directly to charity, and you will be given a receipt via which you may be able to log a tax deduction.
- If you are unable to get to a manned location, specially marked boxes are a good alternative. However, please beware. Not all boxes are owned and operated by charities. As of July 2014, the Florida Charities Law dictates that drop boxes must be marked on both sides and display the 501(c)(3) charity’s registration number. Under the same law, boxes operated by for-profit businesses must also be marked clearly on both sides with the words “For Profit.”
You can also investigate some alternative ways of ensuring the clothing is re-used:
- Unusual items are often usable by arts organizations as costumes. Check with schools, local theater groups, libraries, museums and some costume shops (especially those affiliated with charities).
- Uniforms can be donated back to the organization that issued them. This includes uniforms issued by schools, scouting organizations, sports teams and trainers. Many businesses, including some restaurants and service providers, will also accept returned uniforms. Hospitals will usually accept and sanitize scrubs and white coats. Please contact the appropriate branch of the armed services to inquire about military uniforms.
- Business and formal attire can be donated to specialized groups that serve specific communities. These include charities which, for example, provide interview clothing and prom dresses to those who would otherwise not be able to afford them.
Clothing that is ripped, soiled or damaged can often be re-purposed. For example, quilting groups and other crafters are always looking for sources of interesting material. These can be turned into lovely home goods, other fashion items, children’s toys and so much more.
Items that are beyond any use, may be placed in the black garbage cart. However, please remember that this is likely the very rare item. Even clothing in the very worst condition may be able to be deconstructed. Parts like zippers and buttons can be re-used, and the fibers can be recycled into other raw materials.
What about Accessories, Eyeglasses and Shoes?
Most organizations that accept clothing will also accept accessories, such as scarves, belts, handbags, briefcases and backpacks, hair bows, jewelry and even gently used socks and underwear. Shoes are usually accepted as well, with certain charities focused exclusively or mostly on shoes, such as Soles4Souls, DonateYourOldShoes and the Nike Re-use a Shoe program. Glasses (prescription and non-prescription) may be donated to organizations which specialize in those, including OneSight and New Eyes. Your local optician probably has a drop box, or you can contact Lions Clubs International for information.
Collecting clothing, shoes, eyeglasses, accessories and other soft goods are great ways for you to get involved with charity and also "Green Your Clothing Routine." Most of the organizations we list here and on our Charities page are happy to partner with individuals, businesses, schools and other organizations to host collection drives or place collection boxes. Getting involved does a world of good and keeps these items out of our local waste stream. Contact individual organizations for more information. Please note that placement of collection boxes in the public right of way or outside on private property is governed by the Florida Charities Law and may be subject to local ordinances. Please contact City of Fort Lauderdale 24-hour Customer Service for more information.