We all want to be good for our planet and society and recycling correctly is certainly part of it… but can you recycle yarn?
Recycling is a better way to dispose of waste than tossing it in landfills. To help educate people and make recycling easier, some cities have partnered with Waste Management, the world’s largest collector and recycler of post-consumer material.
Yarn can’t be recycled in the traditional sense. Instead, it can be reused and repurposed into new clothing and projects. By cleaning the old yarn and then straightening and smoothing it, you can reuse it as if it’s new!
And you want to help and spread the word, you can even join the national Recycle Often, Recycle Right campaign to sort, and recycle right.
You can help spread the word to your family and friends by downloading and printing our coloring and activity pages which you can distribute to day-care centers, schools, parks, libraries, or other locations that inspire recycling.
How Do You Recycle Yarn?
Commonly made of acrylic, nylon, or wool – it’s well known that yarn is a popular material that can be recycled.
There are many questions about what you can and cannot recycle. Some cities make recycling yarn a challenge. It is not as easy to recycle as plastic or glass, however, there are options available to you!
Both plastic and paper recycling plants can recycle most forms of yarn. The only exception? Some kinds of acrylic or elastic yarn. Acrylic is the “plastic” that makes up a lot of our synthetic-knitting yarns, and many new knitting patterns today are written for acrylic yarns rather than wool due to the ease with which beginners can work with it.
Unfortunately, acrylic is not easily recycled. If you’re interested in crafting with this type of yarn, consider reusing a yarn that was already produced. Most spools and skeins of yarn are recyclable as long as they are clean and only contain natural fibers. The easiest way to recycle your old yarn is to repurpose it into another project.
We hope that you’ll also consider reusing your yarn by knitting or crocheting wonderful new things with it.
Alternatives to Recycling Yarn
Buying and wearing recycled yarn is the best way to enjoy a new sweater without creating any unnecessary waste. There are so many ways to recycle yarn, from collecting wool remnants during the shearing season, sorting through a mother-in-law’s stash, or combing through thrift stores.
Yarn reclamation isn’t as hard as it sounds. It only requires an eye for detail, patience, and hopefully some knitting skills.
Our plant-based initiatives are here to stay. They mean that we are trying our hardest to look after our planet, by diverting waste into new yarn and providing recycling opportunities where possible. These have come from two places – Scraps from other projects, and from the textile industry itself.
Any loose yarn can be recycled in your community. If you have a friend or family member who knits or crochets, they may have a separate bin in their home that is used for recycling unwanted yarn.
Look for local yarn shops that accept donations, or consider placing your donation in a charity collection box. If none of those are options, there are several websites where you can recycle yarn on your own and help someone else out, too!
Repurposing Old Yarn
Repurposing yarn is fairly straightforward. You can bleach white or acrylic yarn to restore its whiteness, and most fibers will bounce back after going through the washing machine. Wool yarns are often dyed and can have a pattern added -you can dye these to restore their original colors or may be able to purchase the same colorway in another yarn.
Yarn and knitting needles have a second life beyond their intended use. Each year the United States throws away over two billion pounds of old clothes (Environmental Protection Agency). With just a little bit of effort, recycled yarn can be used to make beautifully crafted items like sweaters, scarves, hats, and more!
Yarn can be recycled into new yarn. Most spinning mills that recycle yarn will accept used yarn. You may also use a fiber-salvage company, which is likely to have less stringent standards than a mill. All recyclers of used yarn will want to see if the fibers are mechanically damaged (cut) or chemically damaged (soiled or felted) before they will process them.
Why Is Recycling Important?
This is a really good question. Why recycle yarn? First of all, it’s just smart.
There is an ever-increasing demand for new fibers. The U.S. Government estimates that 95% of the cotton grown in this country goes to textile manufacturing and half of all fibers comes from overseas nations; recycled yarn helps reduce our dependence on foreign fibers and promotes growth within our own borders at the same time.
We all know that recycling is important. But for many of us, it’s often easy to forget about the importance of recycling yarn. After all, it can be a bit tricky to find a recycling bin for yarn in parks, streets, or shops. But recycling yarn keeps unnecessary fibers, dyes, chemicals, and precious water out of our oceans.
By recycling yarn we are taking one step closer to protecting the ocean for future generations, and the materials used to create yarn, particularly the synthetic ones, usually cannot be reused.
So it is very important to recycle yarn because it is a resource that is being rapidly depleted. Half of the yarn supply from factories comes from recycled yarn. Recycling saves many natural resources and allows us to keep enjoying wonderful products. After this fiber has been used once, it is an elegant, durable, and readily renewable resource.