How to Reuse and Recycle Outdoor Gear

recycle outdoor gear
DLeeming69/ShutterstockOne creative way to recycle outdoor gear is to turn your old boots into plant pots.

The climbing rope my husband, Pete, purchased in 1993 never saw a harness after 1998, but we still have several pieces of it around the house. It has kept kayaks fastened to car roofs, held drying laundry on camping trips, and even towed a stuck car. In the warm months, it is a makeshift tree swing for our children, dangling not far from an old, leaky backcountry tent they play in. Each time we upgrade gear, we ask, “What do we do with the old stuff?” If, like us, your goal is to keep it out of the waste stream, here are a few tips.

Websites like Pinterest and Instructables are great places to find creative ways to give your gear new life. Hiking-boot planters in a garden or on a patio can express your love for the outdoors. An old tent can become a play space, or its ripstop nylon can be cut and sewn into a do-it-yourself hammock. Spent bicycle inner tubes can be used in hundreds of ways, from homemade rubber bands to handlebar tape for your bike.

If crafty isn’t your style, consider recycling. Patagonia is a leader in keeping textiles out of landfills. The outfitter reports that since 2005, it has recycled more than 82 tons of clothing from customers.

In 2013, The North Face launched a similar program, Clothes the Loop. You can drop off clothing and shoes from any manufacturer at its retail stores and earn a $10 voucher for future purchases.
Online retailer and upcycler Green Guru will accept items by mail or in person at partner locations, listed on the website. The company collects bike tubes, wetsuits, climbing ropes, and tents then recycles the materials into products including messenger bags, wallets, and tablet sleeves. Terracycle doesn’t take gear, but it will take the wrappers from your energy bars. Also be sure to check with your local transfer station to see what materials they accept and consult with local outfitters and bike shops for additional resources.

You can also pass along your outdoor equipment while it still has some life left. Check with local scout troops or thrift stores to see if they accept donated gear. Climbing gyms might take your old climbing shoes, and animal shelters will often accept old sleeping bags to use as bedding. Organizations like Roll It Forward and Bikes Not Bombs refurbish old bikes and make them available to low-income communities or developing nations.

Online options are numerous. Yerdle is a forum for swapping outdoor gear. When someone purchases your stuff, they pay with Yerdle dollars, not cash, which you then can apply to other gear listed on the site. Freecycle, an international network of community-based groups, is another great resource for giving away items. If cash is your aim, check out Geartrade or Gearx. Both sites provide an online marketplace for buyers and sellers.

When a zipper breaks or fabric tears, it’s tempting to run out and buy the latest and greatest. Before you do, consider whether it’s fixable. A repairs section on Patagonia’s website provides instruction on everything from installing a new zipper on a vest to darning a hole in a sweater. Your favorite blister-free hiking boots can also be resoled. Check the manufacturer’s site for recommended cobblers or do a local search. Some, like Cabot Resole and Shoe Repair in Beverly, Mass., take mail-in repairs.

Bottom line: Get creative and keep your old gear out of the landfill.


About the Author…

Karen Ingraham

AMC Outdoors inspires people to engage in outdoor conservation and recreation through meaningful stories.

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Sign up for special offers, conservation alerts, adventures near you, and stories from across the region.