The Problem

Did you know that, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 84 percent of clothing, shoes and other 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 American throws away approximately 81 pounds of textiles per year—over 27 billion pounds of waste annually. That’s a lot of sweaty t-shirts, old 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 and shoes 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 and shoes 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 and shoes.

How It Works

Columbia is installing collection bins where you can drop off apparel and footwear you no longer use—in clean, dry condition.

What Happens to the Recycled Items?

Columbia is partnering with I:CO to make the ReThreads program a success. I:CO is a global textile recycling solutions provider 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 reuse or recycling depending on specific sorting criteria.

The result is that the average person throws away approximately 81 pounds of clothing and shoes per year—over 27 billion pounds of textiles waste annually.

Items that are still wearable will find new homes through the second-hand market. Items that are worse for wear will be reused for products like cleaning cloths or recycled into fibers for new products such as insulation, carpet padding and even  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.