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How To Recycle Pillows

TL;DR: The process of recycling pillows involves donating them if they are in good condition, repurposing them into other items if creativity strikes you, or, in some rare cases, breaking them down for material recycling.

However, recycling isn’t always the most feasible option. As such, I highly recommend exploring other avenues such as repurposing or donating before considering recycling.

Understanding the Problem

Many people aren’t aware that pillows have a certain lifespan, after which their functionality and hygienic properties decrease significantly. Most pillow manufacturers suggest that you should replace your pillows every one to two years.

So, what do you do with your old pillows? In a world that’s becoming more conscious of the environment, the last thing we want is to add more waste to our landfills.

The complexity of pillow recycling lies in their makeup. Pillows are typically a blend of materials (fabric, filling, and occasionally foams), making them challenging to recycle directly. I recommend looking at the tag on your pillow to identify what materials were used in its construction.

Donation as a Form of Recycling

If your pillows are in good condition (i.e., clean and free of tears), donating them is an excellent way to recycle. Many animal shelters, homeless shelters, and charity shops are often in need of pillows.

Before donating, ensure your pillows are thoroughly cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Repurposing Pillows

For those who enjoy DIY projects, there are myriad ways to repurpose old pillows.

  • Creating pet beds: Old pillows can make comfortable bedding for your pets.
  • Gardening knee pads: Gardening enthusiasts can use them as knee pads for added comfort.
  • Draft stoppers: Fill a tube of fabric with pillow stuffing to create draft stoppers for your doors.
  • Crafting: Use the stuffing for stuffed toys or crafting projects.

Note: Repurposing isn’t just a fun project, it’s a creative and responsible way to handle old pillows.

Material Recycling

Some pillows, particularly those filled with down or feather, can be recycled for their materials. For other types of pillows, you’ll need to contact your local recycling center to inquire about recycling options. Some cities have textile recycling programs that accept pillows.

Here’s a general step-by-step guide for material recycling:

  1. Remove the cover: This can usually be reused as rags or for other crafting projects.
  2. Separate the filling: Depending on the type of filling, it can be composted or reused.
  3. Recycle or discard the filling: Recycle if possible; otherwise, responsibly dispose of it.

Breaking Down the Options: Donate, Repurpose, or Recycle?

Having established the core methods of dealing with old pillows – donating, repurposing, and recycling.

Donating: Give Your Pillows a Second Life

Donating is a simple way to extend the life of your pillows, and it’s an excellent solution if they are still in a decent condition. Not only does it help you declutter, but it also helps others in need.

I recommend researching local charities, animal shelters, and homeless shelters to see if they accept pillow donations.

Note: Always remember to clean and sanitize your pillows properly before donating them. Your old pillows may also need a refreshing facelift, so consider sewing new pillowcases for them.

Repurposing: Transforming Old Pillows into New Treasures

If you have a creative streak, there are countless ways to breathe new life into old pillows. Besides crafting pet beds, garden knee pads, and draft stoppers, consider these additional ideas:

  • Making throw pillows: You can convert old bed pillows into smaller throw pillows for your couch or chairs.
  • Soundproofing: The materials inside pillows can help with soundproofing in your home or office space.
  • Padding for outdoor furniture: Old pillows can provide additional comfort for your patio furniture.
  • Compost: If your pillow is filled with natural materials like feathers or down, these can be composted and used to enrich your garden soil.

While repurposing requires a bit of time and effort, it’s rewarding to see something old transformed into something new and useful.

Recycling: Responsible Disposal of Old Pillows

As mentioned before, recycling is the most challenging route due to the mixed materials found in most pillows. However, it’s not impossible. Here’s a more detailed guide on how to break down your pillow for recycling:

  1. Remove the outer fabric: The pillowcase or outer fabric layer can often be recycled along with other textiles or repurposed into cleaning rags, tote bags, or craft materials.
  2. Separate the filling: The filling is typically the part of the pillow that’s the hardest to recycle. Depending on its composition, it might be compostable, reusable, or it might need to go to the trash. For instance, polyester filling is not recyclable or compostable, while down or feather fillings can be composted.
  3. Take the materials to a recycling center: Check with your local recycling center or waste facility to see if they accept the specific materials. Some facilities can handle textiles or foam, while others might not.

Note: Due to the energy and resources needed to recycle mixed-material items, I recommend trying donation or repurposing first. However, if recycling is your only option, it’s still a much better choice than sending the pillows straight to a landfill.

Investing in Sustainable Alternatives

Moving forward, consider investing in eco-friendly pillows. Many companies are now producing pillows made from natural or recycled materials that are biodegradable and have a much smaller environmental impact. Some options include:

  • Buckwheat pillows: Filled with buckwheat hulls, these pillows are fully compostable at the end of their life.
  • Organic latex pillows: Made from the sap of rubber trees, these pillows are biodegradable and offer excellent support and durability.
  • Recycled material pillows: Some companies are making pillows from recycled materials like plastic bottles, creating a market for recycled products and reducing plastic waste.

Sustainable alternatives can be a bit more expensive, but they are an investment in both your sleep health and the environment.

When it’s time to retire these pillows, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that they will have a much smaller impact on the planet.

Eco-friendly Alternatives

Another approach to the pillow recycling issue is to consider the lifecycle of your pillows before you even purchase them.

Some manufacturers are now producing eco-friendly pillows made from materials like organic cotton, natural latex, or bamboo. These materials are more sustainable and, in some cases, biodegradable.


The journey to recycling pillows isn’t straightforward, but it’s an important step towards reducing waste and preserving our environment.

Donation, repurposing, and material recycling are all valid methods. However, always consider the environmental impact before you make your next pillow purchase.


Can all pillows be recycled?

Not all pillows can be recycled due to their mixed-material composition. Check the tag on your pillow and contact your local recycling center for specific information.

Can I compost my pillow?

Pillows with natural fillings such as down, feather, or organic cotton can be composted. However, synthetic-filled pillows are not suitable for composting.

Is it better to recycle or donate my old pillows?

If your pillow is in good condition, donation is a great option. This gives the pillow a second life and can help those in need. If the pillow isn’t in usable condition, consider repurposing or recycling.


  • Chris Chamberlan

    Chris Chamberlan, passionate animal welfare activist and USC graduate, conducted undercover RSPCA missions exposing slaughterhouse malpractices. A vegan and advocate for humane treatment, Chris has spoken at international conferences, been involved in vegan outreach, and founded Solarpunk Solutions for sustainability. His blending of animal welfare with eco-living principles for a compassionate future.

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