Even if your bra is too old to donate, you can still recycle the fasteners. With a few zip ties, the eye hooks can be used to help injured turtles.

By Andrea Beck
July 03, 2019

With a little creative thinking, you can recycle and reuse lots of household products in surprising ways. Sometimes, you can even use things you might otherwise toss—like old mascara wands—to help keep rescued animals healthy. Wildthunder Wildlife & Animal Rehabilitation & Sanctuary, a nonprofit located in Independence, Iowa, found a way to use the eye closures from bras to help mend turtle shells; so on June 25, they posted on their Facebook page asking their followers for donations.

Image courtesy of Wildthunder Wildlife & Animal Rehabilitation & Sanctuary.

“[The idea] just came out of need and necessity,” says Tracy Belle, the founder and director of Wildthunder Wildlife & Animal Rehabilitation & Sanctuary. The wildlife rescue had a turtle come into rescue with a cracked shell, so Belle used what she had on hand to mend it, including zip ties, marine epoxy (a waterproof adhesive), and bra clasps. “I also needed something that I could hook the zip ties through, so I used the eyes from the fastener,” Belle says.

Here’s how it works: When a turtle comes into the wildlife rescue with a cracked shell, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the shell is permanently damaged. “Our hope is that if the shell is still viable—meaning that there’s good blood supply—then [the shell] can grow back together,” Belle says. “It takes quite a long time, and we know that eventually the marine epoxy will wear out and those zip ties will fall away, but our hopes are that it can keep them together long enough to at least mend the wound underneath.”

Related: Everything You Need to Know to Care for Your New Pet Turtle

For turtles with smaller cracks in their shells, just sealing the crack with marine epoxy can be enough to keep the shell together as it grows. But for a larger crack, like with the turtle Wildthunder recently rescued, more strength is required to hold the pieces of the shell together. In this case, Belle adhered the eye closures from an old bra to the turtle’s shell with marine epoxy, then used zip ties across the crack to hold the shell’s pieces together. “It was what I had on hand, so I just tore apart a bra,” Belle says.

Once she realized how handy the eye closures could be, Belle decided to post on the group’s Facebook page to see if any of their followers had old closures they could donate to help future turtles. Unexpectedly, the post went viral, racking up over 140,000 shares. “I had no idea it was going to take off the way it did,” Belle says. “If anything, I thought people would laugh at me.”

Belle mentioned that the idea of using similar hooks to help hold together cracked turtle shells has been around for many years, but believes that using closures from a bra is what intrigued so many people recently. “I think the difference is that we’re trying to recycle the old bras,” Belle says. “It’s kind of a win-win situation—recycle, repurpose, reuse, and fix the turtles.”

Related: How to Sell, Donate, and Recycle the Clutter You Don't Need

Thanks to their post, the nonprofit has already started receiving donations. “We’ve gotten one package of the bra extenders in the mail, which we put to the side for the next turtle—we get quite a few [turtles] in every year,” Belle says. Still, if you have an old bra (or extender!) that you want to send in to help, make sure you send the eye closures only—Wildthunder, like many animal rescues, is run by volunteers, and they don’t have the space or manpower to store and unravel all the fasteners themselves.

But while Wildthunder went viral for asking for bra fastener donations, there are plenty of other items they could use too for helping other animals. Flat sheets and towels to help keep the animals comfortable are always welcome, along with tools for cleaning up after them, like paint scrapers, paper towels, and disinfecting wipes. You can also send Amazon gift cards or donate directly to the nonprofit through Paypal.

If you’re interested in donating, it’s worth checking with local shelters and nonprofit rescues in your area to see what they need. And turtles with cracked shells aren’t the only ones who can benefit from donated bras, either—lightly worn bras that you don’t want to dismantle for the fasteners can be donated to nonprofits like Free the Girls, which sends them to women in countries like El Salvador, Mozambique, and Costa Rica. Whenever you’re cleaning out your closet, there are plenty of ways to donate your old clothes and household supplies to nonprofits to help others, people and animals alike.

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