Recycling Clothes in Tokyo
Clean out your closet and start the year fresh!
Whether you’re doing the traditional New Year’s oosoji (“big cleaning”) or getting ready for a move, here are a few ways to make some space and keep your used clothes out of the incinerator.
Until relatively recently, used clothes in Japan have had one fate: burnable garbage. If you’re from a country with a collection bin and a few secondhand shops in every neighborhood, this just feels wrong. Some people take suitcases full of cast-offs back home rather than throw them out. Happily, the Japanese concept of mottainai (avoiding wastefulness) is catching on and leading to more options.
Do you have too many designer clothes and accessories in like-new condition? You’re in the right city. There are many brand-conscious secondhand shops that will buy your things.
Komehyo or RagTag
Start with Komehyo or RagTag, both of which have some half dozen outlets throughout Tokyo. Be prepared to take a number and wait a while if you go on a busy day, but if you can read Japanese RagTag has a wonderful online option. Through which you can send in a box of clothes free of delivery charges, and you’ll get an email within a week or two telling you how much the store is willing to offer you for them. If you accept the price, a deposit will be made to your bank account, and if there are any items whose prices you disagree with, they’ll send them back to you at no charge.
Pass the Baton
Pass the Baton in Omotesando sells items that fit its quirky aesthetic on consignment (they call it “relighting”), but the store requires an appointment for anyone wishing to sell items, during which you’ll have to explain the “story” of each piece. Expect to spend at least an hour with a staff member, even for a small number of items, but you’re likely to get more cash for designer clothing and accessories that sell than you would from RagTag or Komehyo.
The fastest growing app in Japan (also available in the U.K. and the U.S.), Mercari lets you sell and buy pretty much anything. To use it, you’ll need to make a (free) account and have a good command in Japanese, although it’s fairly easy if you have a friend to help you do it. Take up to four photos, upload them along with a short description and wait for someone to buy it. Clothes and small items typically sell within a few hours. After someone buys it, you will have to wrap the product yourself and send it to the user who purchased it. Logistics company Kuroneko Yamato has a partnership with Mercari, which allows you to just drop by at any Yamato store, whisper the magic words “Mercari” and they’ll have your goods delivered in a special package. The best thing is that it’s anonymous, so neither the sender nor receiver knows the other party’s private information (unless they’re sending it in another way). Mercari takes 10% of every deal, so make sure to set the price in a way that gives you some profit.
Uniqlo’s recycling program works with international humanitarian partners to donate used Uniqlo clothes to refugees and other displaced people. What they take is specific, but if you’ve ever gone on a summer sale binge and bought enough cooling t-shirts to outfit a tropical party, it’s good to know there’s a place where it won’t all go to waste. Simply bring your things to any Uniqlo shop.
H&M will give you a ¥500 store coupon for every bag of clothes you donate—any clothes in any condition. The staff will send clothes in good shape to markets to be resold and then recycle the rest as raw materials, but they won’t take shoes or accessories. There’s a limit of two bags per person per day. There is no explicit limit to the size of the bags, but the cardboard deposit boxes set up at the cash registers suggest they expect donations to be on the smaller side.
The Salvation Army will not only take your wearable used clothes in bulk, it will also send someone to your door to cart them away for free. The catch? They only make pickups during the week, and you may have to schedule as much as two or three weeks in advance. There is a little-known Salvation Army store open on Saturday mornings in Nakano-Fujimicho with serious bargains on housewares, English books and—yep—clothes. It’s a great place to start refilling all that new empty space, and if you don’t schedule a pickup far enough in advance, the store will accept donations of some items via courier (although you must pay the delivery charges). Check the website for the address and a list of accepted items.
You could also try to test out your sewing skills and turn your old clothes into other small items like pouches and masks. How do you recycle your clothes? Let us know in the comments below!