5 Easy Ways to Recycle Clothes in Tokyo

Carey Finn
Second-hand clothes pic via Shutterstock.
Second-hand clothes pic via Shutterstock.

A lot of cheapos have asked us how to go about recycling their used but still perfectly decent threads, so we’ve put together five easy options that are eco-friendly, people-friendly and wallet-friendly.

If you’ve been in Japan for a while, you’re bound to have accumulated a bunch of stuff. Trying to figure out how you managed to cram it all into that six-tatami mat room borders on quantum physics. How did you fit all of those drastically discounted threads into your single drawer?  We don’t know. Time to free up some space?

Time for a spring clean? Image by Molly Marshall
Is this your room? Image by Molly Marshall, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Once you’ve sorted through your outfits and stuffed the ones you don’t see yourself wearing again into packets, the question arises – what do you do with these (formerly glad) rags? Putting them out with the rubbish will see them meet a fiery end at the council incinerator, which is mottainai – wasteful. But then, what to do? Fling them from your balcony, like something out of a bad 90s break-up scene? Instead of invoking the wrath of that smoky old guy downstairs, you might want to try one of these ideas.

Take Your Old Clothes to H&M

Under the slogan “Don’t let fashion go to waste”, H&M stores countrywide have been accepting used clothing since March 2013. They will sort your stuff by its condition, and then in partnership with I:CO, it will either be resold as second-hand clothing (presumably for a good cause), or, if it’s no longer wearable, recycled and used for energy, insulation materials, cleaning rags or upcycled goods. H&M take just about any clothes, even if they’re holey – but no shoes, blankets or sheets. They’ll give you a store discount coupon for each bag you bring in, though you’re limited to two bags a day.

Take Your Old Clothes Back to Uniqlo

If, like this writer, you’re something of a Uniqlo bargain box fiend, you can round up all your Uniqlo and GU brand items that you want to recycle and drop them off at any Uniqlo or GU store. They will then sort the clothing “to suit the cultural needs and preferences of the people in each destination country” (we’re not sure what that means, exactly), and give it to people in need – including disaster victims and refugees. You can see how much they’ve donated and where, here. If you hand over your clothes to Uniqlo, you won’t get any discount coupons for your efforts (but you’ll still feel all warm and fuzzy).

Image by antjeverena, used under a Creative Commons Licence.
Flea markets for the win! Image by antjeverena, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Take Your Old Clothes to the Mottainai Flea Market

Another awesome option (actually, maybe the most awesome option) is to donate your clothes to a Mottainai Flea Market. These very cheapo-friendly flea markets are organised by the Mottainai Campaign, which, inspired by the late Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai and run by the Mainichi Newspaper Company, does all sorts of eco-friendly stuff. If you donate some clothes, you’ll be able to buy other clothes for just 100 yen a piece at the next market. The proceeds go to restoration efforts in Tohoku, as well as the Green Belt Movement, which plants trees in Kenya. You can also donate CDs and books, and even used cooking oil! The flea markets take place just about every weekend. You can check the schedule here (in Japanese).

Image by , used under a Creative Commons Licence.
Get thrifty! Image by US Army Garrison Red Cloud – Casey, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Donate Your Old Threads by Post

If you’re an animal lover, you can use your old clothes to raise funds for Animal Refuge Kansai (ARK). Admittedly, it’s a little far away, but we couldn’t find a set-up like this in Kanto. You just chuck your clothes in a box, pay for postage (not a lot, usually) and off it goes to Orange Thrifty. Once they get the goods, they’ll give you a confirmation call, then sort and sell your stuff. They actually support two charities, so you can specify if you’d like the money from your clothes to support volunteer activities in Kobe (human stuff) instead.

You could also support a different charity organisation, Akasugu Net, which helps to pay for vaccines for needy children. It’s a little bit more complicated, but there are coupons involved as incentives. You can read about it here (note that it’s in Japanese).

Take care not to recycle your cat with the clothes. Image by Lebatihim, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Flog Your Old Clothes at Mode Off

If it’s cold hard cash you’re after, you could always drag your clothes down to Mode Off and try to sell them there. They probably won’t give you much, and you can’t sell clothes that are out of season – like giant down jackets in the middle of summer, but it’s worth a try. They do accept “unseasonal” items and clothes that are too beat-up to sell as donations though. You can read our handy How-To-Flog-Stuff-at-Mode Off guide here.

This post was first published on February 4th, 2014. On May 25th we updated it to make it more awesome.


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2 Responses to “5 Easy Ways to Recycle Clothes in Tokyo”

  1. Closet Gaijin

    Are there any charities who will accept used clothing donations and who provide PICKUP or DROP-OFF service in central Tokyo? For those of us without cars, delivering the goods is often the biggest obstacle.

  2. if you use regular mail, and pay yourself, i think your local post office will come pick up the boxes at your house.
    call first, to arrange a time and to find out if you need to use the post office box and/or label.
    or you could drop by the post office in person to ask about it, and make a date for them to come pick up the box or boxes.
    of course kuroneko yamato or any other ta-Q-bin service will also come to pick things up at your house and the expense is probably about the same, might be even less. neither nor the post office will charge extra for pickup service.


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