Can You Recycle Your Pillows? Here’s What You Should Know

You try your best to be eco-friendly. You walk the few extra steps to toss your can in the recycling bin. Your reusable grocery tote is in the trunk of your car. You’re eating plant-based a few times a week, and loving it. You might have even switched to one of our most-recommended bamboo pillows, sleeping peacefully on their cooling, renewable-material surface night after night. But what about replacing your old, worn-out pillows? Can pillows be recycled in an eco-friendly way?

Today we’ll discuss some of your available options, along with how to properly dispose of pillows when it’s time to purchase some fresh, new pillows.

Can Pillows Be Recycled?

can pillows be recycled

Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and products. Some materials, like glass bottles or aluminum cans are almost infinitely recyclable. These materials can be recycled and reproduced again and again, with relatively little energy or waste required. For this reason, recycling centers for these common materials are also common, and you can often recycle them right in your curbside bins, or even be paid for supplying them.

Unfortunately, while pillows are recyclable, they are not the easiest item to recycle properly. Properly disposing of your old pillow requires a bit of planning and, most likely, a bit of creative thinking.

Pillows, like most textile products, can’t simply be tossed in your recycling bin. Because they are usually a combination of different fabrics and materials, they can’t be sorted easily by recycling centers. And many pillows’ fillings, with various synthetic materials like foam, can’t be recycled in any meaningful way.

When you’re ready to take the first step after asking can pillows be recycled, Earth911’s recycling finder tool is a great start. You can find both general and specialized recycling services in your area, linking you to drop-off centers or collection points for everything from home electronics to spent pillows.

However, if there isn’t a specialized textile recycling service near you, you don’t need to give up on recycling your pillow. Instead, you may just need to get a little creative.

Ways to Reduce, Reuse & Recycle Pillows

You have likely heard of the “Three Rs,” usually listed as reduce, reuse and recycle. Did you know that these terms were actually instituted in order of importance and impact? As per the Environmental Protection Agency, the most effective way to reduce waste is to not create it in the first place.

Reducing Pillow Waste

So when it comes to your pillows, it is important to consider buying a quality product that will last for an adequate amount of time. For your health and comfort, we generally recommend replacing your bed’s pillows somewhere between every six and 24 months. Lower-quality pillows could lead to unnecessary waste, and actually end up costing more in the long run as you replace them.

A pillow protector is one of the best ways to extend the life of your pillow. By reducing the frequency of staining and soiling your pillow, you can reduce the amount of washing required for the pillow itself. This has the added benefit of keeping your pillow fluffy and fresh.

How to Reuse Pillows

Without recycling your pillows in your curbside bin, many will find it easiest to reuse their pillows in other ways. By reusing your pillow, you can extend its useful life for far beyond the usual six  to 24 months.

As a Household or Garden Cushion

can pillows be recycled

As a DIY project, or filling a pre-made pouf cover, your old pillows can be transformed into a stylish floor cushion. And gardeners who spend a lot on their knees weeding or sowing seeds will be grateful for a little cushioning.

A Pet Bed

can pillows be recycledEver paid big bucks for an expensive pet bed, just for your little pal to ignore it? Turning your old pillow into a pet bed is a great way for you to recycle pillows, and your pet will appreciate that it smells like you.

Packing Materials

can pillows be recycledKeep your valuables from slipping or shifting during transit with a soft, squishy pillow. Wedging your pillow in front of a mirror or painting can protect the frame or glass from accidental damage.

Compost (Down Pillows Only)

can pillows be recycledFeathers are a rich source of nitrogen, which can help break down organic materials into healthy compost for your garden. Be sure your down pillows are free of chemical treatments before adding them to your compost bin, however.

Donate to a Local Shelter

can pillows be recycledIf your pillows are properly cleaned and in relatively good condition, consider donating them to local organizations. Pet and wildlife shelters usually are good places to start, as they often have a need for these sorts of materials. Be sure your pillows are clean and free of holes, mold, or other substances if you’re interested in donating to local homeless shelters or rescue missions. It’s always a good idea to reach out to the organization directly if you’re unsure about donation guidelines.

How You Can Recycle Pillows

Because of their construction and general lack of facilities, recycling pillows should be the last step before disposal. Dumping them into your curbside bin can lead to pollution and dangers to wildlife. If there are textile recycling factories in your area, your pillow can be used to manufacture rags, insulation, and other industrial materials. Earth911 is a good place to find these facilities in your local area.

TerraCycle is a company that will take care of this process, at a price. Purchasing a specialized box, you can fill it with your materials and ship it off to them for sorting and handling. However, at over $100, you’ll want to be sure you are getting your money’s worth for your peace of mind.

How to Properly Dispose of Pillows

If you’re unable to reuse your pillow in any of these 13 ways, properly disposing of your pillows is the responsible next step. Placing the old pillows inside a plastic garbage bag is a simple way to protect wildlife and reduce leaching of materials into the surrounding environment.  The plastic bag can then be disposed of into your curbside bins for pickup. Reducing your landfill waste is a worthy goal, and every little bit certainly helps.

Bottom Line

Recycling is a great option for reducing your landfill contributions, but it isn’t the only method available. Especially where your pillows and bedding are concerned, there are other options to consider. While pillows can be recycled, doing it yourself is likely the more environmentally-friendly option.

Instead of complicated recycling, a high-end pillow that will last, like the top-rated Beckham Hotel Collection, is the easiest way to reduce waste. We hope that you will sleep soundly, knowing that each of your small actions can have a large positive impact on our shared environment.

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