What Can I Do with the Bras I Never Wear?

Donate your bras
The struggle to find a comfortable bra is a common experience among women. So, too, is the overstuffed dresser drawer tangled with bras we never wear.

What’s a girl to do if she wants to declutter, clear her conscience of money poorly spent and minimize the waste of Earth’s precious resources? The “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra fits perfectly here – yes, pun intended.

Reduce, in this case, means buying fewer bras in the first place and making more careful choices. Some brands differentiate themselves by offering more exact sizing, like ThirdLove, or serving traditionally overlooked sizes. You could also skip putting on a bra altogether and throw on Free Reign’s Everyday Tank. Our comfortable two-in-one tank with built-in bra reduces the need to buy more bras and saves time dressing. 

Where to Donate Your Bras

There are a surprising number of initiatives set up to reuse serviceable bras that women no longer wear, extending their useful life. These include:

I Support the Girls – This non-profit operates globally through a network of affiliates that collect bras and feminine hygiene products for donation to women experiencing homelessness. Check their website to see where you can send – or drop off — the bras you no longer need. They also provide resources to launch your own donations drive. If there is no affiliate near you, send your bras to I Support the Girls, Attn: Dana Marlowe, P.O. Box 2736, Wheaton, Maryland 20915.

Free the Girls – This non-profit collects donated bras and equips women in developing countries to resell them in the second-hand market to generate income. Geared specifically toward women previously involved in sex trafficking, the program helps women start new lives by becoming entrepreneurs. Locations where you can drop off new or gently-used bras are listed on their website. Quantities of five bras or more can be sent directly to Free the Girls, 1552 Pioneer Trail, Chesterton, IN 46304. If you want to host a bra drive in support of this important mission, you can find step-by-step instructions here.

The Bra Recyclers – This for-profit business calls itself a social enterprise. It collects bras and donates them to non-profits in the United States and Africa that support women escaping domestic violence and sex trafficking. It also donates to programs that provide bras for girls who need them to attend school or play sports. The company’s revenue model includes recycling partnerships with retailers, such as Soma, and selling bra overstock and returns to exporters. Their website includes information on drop off locations; or you can send bras directly to The Bra Recyclers, 3317 S. Higley Rd, Ste 114-441, Gilbert, AZ 85297.

It is important to note that some developing country governments are pushing back on donors and exporters who ship secondhand clothing to their countries arguing these low-cost imports undercut domestic apparel manufacturers and add to their landfills. 

Where to Recycle Your Bras

Donate your bras
So, what if it doesn’t make sense for someone to re-wear your old bras? Heck, if they’re super uncomfortable, why inflict pain on someone else? And if they’re soiled, scratch that too. Luckily there are ways to recycle them.

The most heartwarming bra ‘recycling’ idea I’ve come across is repurposing the metal hook-and-eye clasps found on some bras to repair broken turtle shells. Waterfowl rescuers attach the clasps to both sides of a crack in the shell, then help the fracture heal by tying the two sides together. As of this writing, two wildlife rehabilitation organizations that put out an SOS for extra bra clasps have received more than they need. This niche application, while noble, is hardly an answer to the millions of bras that have reached the end of their useful life.

Recycling bras into materials that can be used for other purposes is better than sending them to landfills, but easier said than done. Recycling apparel is more cost-effective and technically straightforward when the article of clothing is made mostly of one fabric, like polyester or cotton. Recycling bras, which have many components – from metal underwire and clasps to foam cups and multiple fabrics – is a more complex undertaking.

The Bra Recycling Agency (B.R.A) spent years developing a bra recycling process that shreds the bras, removes the metal, and converts the pulverized foam and fabric into carpet underlay. The agency designs recycling programs for consumers, retailers, and brands. Free Reign is teaming up with B.R.A. to offer our customers an easy way to recycle the bras they never wear.

Using your mobile phone, you can text the word “bra” to the number 79274 and download a mailing label to send bras to the warehouse that collects them for recycling. You will need to cover the cost of shipping and pay $5 if you want to recycle more than one bra.

Thanks to these imaginative initiatives, untangling the heap of bras in your top drawer never held so much promise.
More to come…

 

Note: The addresses for bra donations listed above may change, so best to check the organization websites to confirm they are still current. Free Reign relies on the good will of these organizations to deliver on their promised actions and makes no claims or assurances regarding them.

 

– Liz Cook, Co-Founder, Free Reign