The Problem

Did you know that, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 85 percent of clothing and textiles in the United States ends up in landfills? All of us have shoes, shirts, pants and jackets that we’ve worn way beyond their useful life. Or items we’ve outgrown or decided the color or style just doesn’t fit our wardrobe anymore. The result is that the average person throws away approximately 70 pounds of clothing per year—about 23.8 billion pounds of waste annually. That’s a lot of sweaty t-shirts, soiled socks and threadbare jeans!

The Solution

Columbia Sportswear has long had a holistic approach to bringing products to market, with established social responsibility practices and close attention paid to reducing environmental impacts in design, manufacturing and transport. But what happens to our products at the end of their useful life? Looking into this part of the life cycle got us thinking about post-consumer recycling, not just for paper, glass and plastic—but for shoes and jacket as well! We decided to take steps to ensure that our apparel and footwear does not end up in landfills. It’s a big task, but when Gert Boyle believes in something, it happens. 

On October 21st of 2015, Columbia launched a pilot of the ReThreads programa special initiative designed to simplify post-consumer recycling. The aim of the program was two-fold. It was designed to increase awareness around apparel and footwear recycling options, and perhaps more importantly, provide an easier and more rewarding way to recycle and give products a new life. The end result? Less apparel and footwear ending up in landfills, conservation of our natural resources and a happier planet.

Recycle your clothes here.

The pilot was so successful that we are doing it again this year! Beginning on August 9th, 2017 there will be a recycling location in every Columbia branded store and Outlet across the country. The program will run year-round, but through September 10th, 2017 for every pound of clothing you recycle, we will donate $1 to the charity of your choice. So find your nearest Columbia store, purge your clothes (trust us, you’re not going to wear that again if you haven’t worn it in over a year), and recycle your clothes.

How It Works

Columbia is installing collection bins where you can drop off apparel and footwear you no longer use—in clean, dry condition. From August 9th to September 10th, for every pound of clothing you recycle, Columbia will donate $1 to your charity of choice.

85 percent of clothing and textiles in the United States ends up in landfills

In store, you will get to choose which organization you want us to donate to – American Hiking Society, Children & Nature Network, or The National Park Foundation. Don’t worry, we love all of them equally – we just want you to be able to choose where you would like our donation to go.

What Happens to the Recycled Items?

Columbia is partnering with I:CO to make the ReThreads program a success. I:CO is a textile recycling solutions company whose aim is to keep used clothing and shoes in an everlasting life cycle where these items can be reprocessed, reused and recycled again and again.

After items are dropped off at participating Columbia stores, they begin their journey with I:CO to find their next best use. Clothes and shoes arrive at a textile processing facility and are evaluated and sorted for re-wear, reuse or recycling depending on specific sorting criteria.

The result is that the average person throws away approximately 70 pounds of clothing per year—about 23.8 billion pounds of waste annually.

Products that are still wearable will find new homes through the second-hand market. Products that are worse for wear will be reused in their natural form but get another life in applications such as cleaning cloths or toys. Products that cannot be reused will be recycled into raw materials and used for new products such as running tracks, insulation, carpet padding or even fiber for new fabrics.

Through our ReThreads program, we can all do our part to help renew the planet and our communities.

Find your nearest participating store here.