smartwool socks
Photo credit: Berne Broudy

Smartwool Wants to Recycle Your Old Socks: Here’s How You Can Help

For a limited time, Smartwool will recycle your old, used socks — from any brand. All you have to do is drop them off.

Socks are the most thrown-away pieces of apparel. It makes sense. Unlike your lightly used skis or still-has-plenty-of-life down jacket, no one wants to buy your used, worn-out socks. And there’s no place to easily recycle them. So, into the trash they go.

Well, no more. Now, Smartwool will take back your old socks — of any brand. Starting on Earth Day 2021 and running through May 2, 2021, look for bins at local retailers where you can drop off your old socks.

The collection bins are temporary. But from April 21 on, any consumer can opt in to receive a pre-paid bag to send in their socks when making a purchase on Smartwool’s website.

For a list of participating retailers, click here.

smartwool second cut project
Photo credit: Franzi Charen

Smartwool’s Second Cut Project

Dumping worn-out socks has a bigger impact than you might imagine. Socks headed to the landfill contribute 5,025 tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere annually. They’re also part of the larger circularity problem with textiles as a whole. About 11.3 tons of trashed clothes end up in landfills each year.

So, Smartwool developed Second Cut, a way to move the needle toward a more circular economy, starting with socks. The Second Cut Project gives old socks a “second cut” by extending the lifespan of the raw materials.

Collected socks become a new source of upcyclable materials. This reduces the environmental impact of the socks, as well as whatever is made from them next.

“Through our research, we realized that consumers want to be more sustainable and recycle their socks, but don’t currently have the resources to be a part of the solution,” said Alicia Chin, senior manager of sustainability and social impact at Smartwool.

“While our goal is to reach total circularity across our product portfolio, there is obviously an urgent need for a recycling solution in the sock category, which is where we’re focusing our initial efforts.”

smartwool recycling
Photo credit: Franzi Charen

Dog Beds of the Future

To collect and recycle socks, Smartwool is partnering with Material Return, a platform for custom circularity. From April 21 to May 2, 2021, Smartwool will collect used socks from any brand at participating retailers nationwide and online. The company will repurpose those socks into filling for dog beds you can buy from Smartwool during the 2021 holiday season.

Concurrent with its take-back initiative, Smartwool just announced that it is swapping virgin nylon for recycled nylon in three performance collections — and that in the coming months, all Smartwool socks will use recycled (not virgin) nylon.

Recycled nylon reduces Smartwool’s carbon footprint. The redesign also makes the socks softer and more durable. We’ve worn the new socks daily for the past three weeks, and not only do they feel great to put on every time, but there’s also no pilling on the heel.

smartwool second cut
Photo credit: Franzi Charen

Smartwool’s Just Getting Started

Smartwool says this is just the beginning of how it’s getting creative to reduce its impact and pursue its goal to be carbon positive.

Smartwool’s Second Cut Project is launching as part of a larger 10-year social impact roadmap that also includes using 100% climate-positive wool, 100% regenerative materials, and 100% circular products by 2030.

It’s also making significant investments in BIPOC and LGBTQ representation across the company and its communications — and into getting people who haven’t always felt welcome or had the resources to get outdoors into nature.

Learn More at Smartwool

Berne Broudy
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Berne Broudy is a Vermont-based writer, photographer, and adventurer. She is passionate about conservation, education, and recreation, and has spent her adult life working to make the outdoors a place where all feel welcome with the gear and skills to enjoy it.