- Gold Toe socks debuted a recycling program with TerraCycle on Wednesday that allows individuals and organizations to mail in clean, used socks from any brand using prepaid shipping labels.
- Socks collected through the new program will be recycled depending on their material type, a TerraCycle spokesperson said in an email. Natural fiber textiles like cotton will be turned into a type of insulation, while those made of blended fibers will be transformed into filler for products like mattresses, pet bedding and sports equipment.
- Every sock shipment will earn points that participants can convert into donations to a nonprofit, school or charity, according to the announcement.
Gold Toe, a roughly 80-year-old sock brand, isn’t the first to roll out this type of recycling program. In 2021, outdoor apparel brand Smartwool, which is owned by VF Corp., launched an initiative called Second Cut, which similarly collects and recycles used socks.
Smartwool started the initiative as part of its goal to make all products circular by the end of the decade. It began with socks because 46% of people the brand polled weren’t sure how to recycle them. Nine in 10 said they threw away more than one pair of socks annually.
In turn, this contributes to the roughly 11.3 million tons of textile waste that ends up in landfills in the U.S. each year, the brand argued.
TerraCycle is aiming to address this issue. A company spokesperson said the company wanted to partner with Gold Toe to address a “common but often overlooked waste stream.”
"While commonplace in our lives, socks can be difficult to recycle," TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky said in a statement. Szaky added that the program is encouraging customers to “embed responsible practices into their daily lives.”
TerraCycle, which was founded over 20 years ago, focuses on turning hard-to-recycle objects into consumer products. The company is no stranger to collaborations with consumer brands, counting L’Oréal and PepsiCo as partners.
The company has also become popular with direct-to-consumer apparel companies.
Early last year, TerraCycle worked with underwear maker Parade on launching a free recycling program. Called Second Life, the program allows participants to mail in underwear from any brand, which is then turned into things such as insulation, WWD reported. After a brief pause due to capacity issues, Parade restarted the program in January with a goal to recycle nearly 100,000 pairs of underwear.
TerraCycle also joined forces last year with apparel and bedding company Lilysilk. Unlike the other programs, Lilysilk’s initiative only accepts its own used products.
Donated items are turned into shredded fiber, which is used for cushions, pillows and linings. Similar to Gold Toe’s program, Lilysilk gives participants points that can be donated to charitable organizations.