From throw pillows in our living rooms to fluffy bed pillows we can’t sleep without, it’s safe to say many of us get attached to our favorite pillows. But what happens when they get flat, damaged, or worn out?
It’s common to toss pillows in the trash when they no longer fulfill their purpose, but doing so contributes to the amount of textile waste that builds up in landfills. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that’s 17 million tons per year, or 5.8 percent of total MSW generation.
Instead of throwing your pillows in the garbage, check with your local recycling facilities to see if they accept them. Pillows can be difficult to recycle, as they’re made of materials like cotton then stuffed with everything from feathers to polyester to cotton to memory foam. If you have a textile recycling facility nearby, that’s typically the best route.
You can also check to see if there’s a drop-off bin near you. The American Textile Recycling Service has bins in some states, including Michigan, Colorado, and Texas. Your local recycling facility may be able to point you in the direction of other local options, too. You may even be able to donate gently-used pillows to local thrift stores or donation centers, depending on their needs.
If recycling your pillows isn’t an option, you’re in luck: There are still plenty of ways to use your worn-out pillows at home to keep them out of landfills. Here’s what to do with old pillows.
What to Do With Old Pillows
1. Repurpose Into a Pet Pillow
If your pets constantly carry around your slippers or sleep on your bed, it’s likely they find your scent comforting. Repurposing an old pillow into a pet pillow can be an easy way to keep the pillow around—and keep your pet happy in the process.
2. Use the Stuffing in Other DIY Projects
Stuffing naturally compresses as the years go on. If your kids have stuffed animals that are looking a little less plump than they used to, you can take the stuffing out of an old pillow to use in the toy.
First, make a small incision in the toy. Then transfer your desired amount of stuffing from the pillow into the stuffed animal. When you’re done, finish it off with a quick stitch to seal it up.
3. Save It for Moving Day
We all have fragile items that are difficult to pack when it’s time to move. If you’re moving soon and are worried about delicate glassware or antiques, you can use your old pillows as a buffer between objects in the box.
This could replace bubble wrap or styrofoam, decreasing the amount of waste you create on move-in day. Depending on the size of your pillow, you could put the fragile items right on top. If you have large or bulky pillows that you won’t be using anymore, cut out the stuffing and pack it into any empty corners.
4. Use It for Camping and Road Trips
If you’re a fan of camping or road trips, you know it’s essential to have a pillow on hand. If you’re driving, using a pillow can give your neck a little extra support. If you’re in the passenger seat, taking a nap can help the drive go by faster. They’re also great for tossing in the tent.
5. Give It a Makeover
One of the best ways to upcycle an old pillow you sleep on at night is to give it a makeover to use as a throw pillow in your home. Head to a local fabric store and pick out a pattern you like, then use basic stitching to sew up a pretty new cover. Once you put it on, it will look brand-new. It also saves you money—there’s no reason to buy new!
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