How to recycle your old clothes, properly

With so much time on your hands lately, are you using this opportunity to clear your wardrobe? Depending on how organised you are, this can be a 5-minute job, or 5 hours! The outcome will inevitably be a pile of clothes that you’ll want to be rid of. Thankfully, there are now more options than ever to dispose of them; charity shops, online shops, clothes banks and clothes swap events can be great.

But what about that white t-shirt that’s gone a bit yellow? Or the trousers with the hole in the leg? What do you do with the clothes that aren’t in good condition?  Don’t throw them away!

By 2030, global apparel consumption is projected to rise by 63%, to 102 million tons, the equivalent of 500 billion t-shirts! (UK Parliament – Fixing Fashion: clothing consumption and sustainability).

Behind oil, fashion is the second biggest pollutant in the world. With numbers like this, it shows how vital correct recycling is. We probably intend to, and want to do the right thing but without knowing what your options are for unusable clothes, it’s easy to see why so many people head straight to the waste bin.

So what are your options?

Some councils offer clothes recycling as part of their collection. You can use the Love Your Clothes Recycling Locator to see where your nearest collection point is. You just need to pop your postcode in.

In the last few years, the high street has started to create initiatives to encourage to recycle. M&S stores contain Shwop boxes to help reduce poverty. Items donated are reused, recycled or resold. This supports Oxfam fund vital projects throughout the world. Since the initiative launched, M&S claim to have received over 20 million items of clothing!

The H&M Garment Collecting programme was set up in 2013. Clothes are accepted in any condition by any brand at the cash desk and you receive a £5/$5 towards your next purchase. All clothes collected by H&M are either reused, reworn or recycled and nothing goes to landfill.

The H&M group also includes Monki and & Other Stories, which means you can recycle at these stores too. At Monki, you can drop off your old garments and home textiles – even old towels and sheets – by the cash desk, and get rewarded with a sweet voucher. At & Other Stories, customers can recycle beauty products instead such as an empty lip stick for a 10% off your next purchase voucher.

Selected Zara stores throughout Europe collect unwanted clothes, linens, footwear and even jewellery in collection bins. Zara work with non-profit organisations to help develop projects in local communities. You can use their store locator to find your nearest collection bin.

Calzedonia Group, which owns Intimissimi offers a scheme that produces new products by reusing unwanted clothing. Only Intimissimi card holders can recycle, but you can sign up for one in store. Then you place your unwanted clothes, of any brand, in the I:CO container for a £10 voucher for every five items deposited.

Since 2018, Primark have been donating their unsold clothing and buying samples to the charity Newlife since 2010. Newlife collect, sort and recycle these clothes to raise funds for their charity work. In America, Primark work with a not-for-profit organisation called Delivering Good donate unsold clothing to Delivering Good, a not-for-profit organisation. They redistribute the items to those in need around the world. This could be to families who have been displaced following a natural disaster for example.

John Lewis offer a buy-back scheme which pays members for unwanted clothes which have been bought from them, promising to make sure they’re reused or recycled, and never go to landfill.

Armed with this information, there’s no excuse for chucking your old clothes away now!

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