6 Creative Ways To Recycle Your Jeans

by heather

When most of us think “recycling”, we usually attach that word to others like “plastic”, “glass”, “paper”, or “aluminum”.

We don’t usually think “jeans”. But, we can recycle our old jeans just like we can everything else. And although we can’t put them out at the curb with our #1 and #2 plastics, we can ensure that our beloved denim lives on to serve once its glory days are past.

Important Sidenote: There are a gazillion ways to recycle jeans by turning them into skirts, quilts, purses, and even placemats. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m a notoriously poor sewer with zero creative or technical ability in that department. This means that most of the crafty sewing suggestions are ones that I’ve never done before.

Now, on to recycling!

Our Love Affair With Denim

According to a study done by Research and Markets, blue jeans are the most widely produced piece of apparel in the United States. In 2006 (when the last study was done), we bought over 450 million pairs. In one year.

And, that’s just the United States. So, to say that we’re denim fanatics would be an understatement.

But we’re fanatics for a reason. Think about it for a second…there’s nothing quite like blue jeans. When you find “The Pair”, you know, the luscious, fit-perfectly-makes-you-feel-like-a-million-bucks pair, then those jeans become your second best friend. They see you through good times and bad. And when they start to wear out, there’s definitely a sense of panic and loss.

I’m approaching that final, “third trimester” phase with my favorite jeans. They’re made by paperdenim&cloth, and I picked them up last year at a consignment shop for almost nothing. I’ve worn the knees out (they’re on life support with patches that I barely managed to sew on), walked off the back ankles, and am in a state of denial that they’ll soon be breathing their last gasp. It’s definitely a sad affair. I’ve only got so much time left.

Anyway, since I’ve been going through the five stages of grief it inspired me to go searching for creative ways to recycle jeans. After all, healing comes with action, right?

Turn Your Jeans Into Insulation

Did you know that people are using jeans as home insulation? Yep. I already wrote an article on a company that’s turning jeans into insulation, which you can see here. You can mail in your jeans to the Wisconsin company, Green Jeans Insulation, and they’ll give new life to your denim by shredding it and turning it into eco-friendly home insulation.

Turn Your Jeans Into Coffee Cozies

Tired of picking up a cardboard wrap when you snatch a cup of coffee to go? Well, DocPop.org has a great little design for turning your jeans into coffee cozies.

And, a recycled denim cozy sure beats buying the $6 neoprene ones they’ve got for sale at Dunkin’ Doughnuts.

Turn Your Jeans Into Garden Mulch

Another creative way to recycle your jeans is to cut them into strips and put them around the roots of your plants. Bury them under the top layer of soil, and they’ll help keep the roots moist while slowly decaying.

Turn Your Jeans Into A Bulletin Board

This is one I think I might try myself. You can turn your old jeans into a cool looking bulletin board, with pockets and everything.

The plans come from the DIY Netowork, which you can find here.

My only beef with this project is that it says that you need “new denim” in the instructions, but I find that faintly ridiculous. Why couldn’t you just use your old jeans and cut them into wide strips (using the front and back legs)? I know I’m no Martha Stewart, but I think it’d give it a funky, more authentic look than the pristine, evenly colored swath they show in the plans.

Anyway, it’s a cool project that it worth a looky-loo.

If You Live In The UK, Turn Your Jeans Into Sandals

I found this super cool company, RecycleYourJeans.com, who is turning jeans into sandals.

Here’s the amazing part: the jeans you send them are the jeans you get back in sandal form. How cool is that? They guarantee that the sandals you buy will be made from the very same jeans you sent in to be recycled.

I would lovelovelove to do this with my current favorite pair of jeans. What a way to make them live on! Instead of covering my butt, they’d cover my soles.

Anyway, if you live across the pond then check this company out. I wish they were here in the U.S.

Turn Your Jeans Into…Anything

If you’ve never been to ReadyMade.com, go there now. It’s one of the most fabulous sites on the web for frugal, funky, do-it-yourself projects. They give us everything we need for these projects, including complete instructions, materials list, and ratings from other readers who have made the project before.

And the best part? Almost every project on the site can be used with stuff you already have on hand. They’re green, frugal, and very fun.

Case in point: the picture on the right is a messenger bag made out of old grocery bags (see the instructions here). For those of you blessed with the ability to operate a sewing machine, you could easily substitute strips of denim for the plastic bags and make the same thing.

I have done a few non-sewing projects from this site and must say I’m thrilled with the way they turned out. The instructions are concise, the projects are cheap, and I was able to reuse some things that I might’ve donated otherwise. And what’s better than that?

ReadyMade.com is full of cool projects like the messenger bag, so if you’re looking for fun, artsy ways to recycle your jeans I’d head over here stat.

Last Word…

If any of you have found some creative ways to recycle your jeans please send them in! I’d love to hear them, and I’m sure other readers would too.

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lori forney February 27, 2009 at 2:26 pm

I, too, love jeans…and recycling. Check out my create ways at loriforney.etsy.com . Be a “jeanius” like me, RECYCLE!!!

Greg / Wise Bread February 27, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Those are some pretty cool ideas, Heather! Thanks for posting them!

For more ideas, check out this post by Myscha Theriault on 25 things you can do with old jeans:


MegExpresions February 28, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Hi…I have a purse business, http://www.megexpressions.com, making purses from recycled products. I have found that jeans are an EXCELLENT material to use for making durable purses. Also, used jeans are easy to come by.

Erik Wasselius December 9, 2009 at 9:56 am


Here’s another really cool thing that you can do with recycled jeans:
Drive your car.

For real! 🙂

Have you heard of professor Mohammad Taherzadeh?
He is a brilliant scientist at University of Boras, Sweden, who has come up with a way to recycle jeans and turn them into ethanol fuel, using an eco friendly biological process.
Check him out 🙂

heather December 10, 2009 at 8:39 am

Erik- that’s really cool! Thanks for posting that link- I’ll definitely check him out!

glenda March 29, 2010 at 5:21 pm

I made a quilt with my old jeans, and my mom made purses

glenda March 29, 2010 at 5:25 pm

i made a quilt with my jeans years ago but lost it in a flood. so i am making another. for Christmas one year my mom made purses out of jeans

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