Is 2020 the time for a full wardrobe detox? If your clear out has left you with a pile of unwanted clothes, read on for our guide on how to recycle clothes you no longer want or need responsibly.
Are you de-cluttering your wardrobe? Purging your closet of the clothes that no longer make you look and feel confident will leave you with two things a) the streamlined wardrobe you’ve always dreamed of – and –b) a mounting pile of clothes that you need to dispose of.
The mere thought of that jumbled pile growing on your bedroom floor has been enough for many of us to postpone that long overdue clear out for another few months. But not any more – when it comes to finding new homes for your unwanted clothes, there have never been more options. Whether you choose to sell your pieces online, donate to a local charity shop or even take them to a clothes swap, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing your old pieces find a new lease of life.
But what about the pieces that aren’t in a fit state to find a new home? We’re talking the moth-eaten jumpers, damaged-beyond-repair jeans and stained T-shirts that can’t be cleaned. Though it might be tempting to chuck the odd ripped sock or pair of laddered tights into the bin, what about those bigger ticket items?
With Brits sending a nausea-inducing 350,000 tones of clothes to landfill in spring 2018, our fashion waste problem is an epidemic that we can no longer ignore. Campaigners are urging us all to start recycling our old clothes rather than throwing them in the rubbish – and for good reason.
Over the last decade, clothing has become the fastest growing stream of waste in the UK, and it now represents the fifth biggest environmental footprint of any industry in the UK.
Though the figures leave us little to argue with, we find ourselves asking exactly how can we recycle our old clothes, and what do we need to know before we detox our wardrobes?
To answer these all important questions, we looked at the recycling options available on the high street and spoke to Catrin Palfrey, project manager for the Love your Clothes campaign, to find out how we can do more to help at home.
How to recycle clothes: all your questions answered
Stylist spoke to Catrin Palfrey, project manager for the Love your Clothes campaign, part of the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP), to find out how we can do more at home, and how taking our unwanted items back to the high street can help.
Where can people in the UK go to recycle their clothes?
“People can donate clothes for reuse and recycling through a number of routes. For example, this could be via charity shops or collection bags from the door step, at a textiles bank at a supermarket or the local Household Waste and Recycling Centre (HWRC).
“Some councils will also offer a clothing collection service as part of their recycling collection. The best way to see what to do in your area is use the Love Your Clothes Recycling Locator, where you can pop in your post-code and find out where your nearest textiles bank is.
“Or, you could try refashioning or upcycling unwanted items.”
Why is it important to recycle our old clothes rather than throwing them away?
“Globally, the natural resources (e.g. water and petroleum) needed to make products such as clothes are reducing. Repair, reuse and recycling reduces the amount we are sending to landfill, and makes use of resources already available rather than making them from scratch.
“Ultimately this means reduced levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere which contribute to climate change. It’s also believed that better reuse and recovery can maximise value, create jobs and build skills.”
Are there any parts of clothing that can’t be recycled, such as zips or buttons?
“European Recycling Company is a SCAP signatory which recycles garments and shoes. Nothing goes to waste: buttons, zips, chains and rivets are all removed and sent for recycling.
“Even the dust generated in the process is compressed into blocks and used again in the manufacture of paper, concrete production or utilised as energy.”
Where to recycle clothes on the high street
A number of high street retailers are offering in-store initiatives that aim to make recycling even simpler.
Recycling clothes at H&M
H&M has been offering a garment recycling service since 2013, with every item donated being recycled, reused or re-worn. The fashion giant collects clothes or textiles in all H&M stores worldwide, and if you drop in a bag of clothes to be recycled, the company will give you a £5 voucher to spend in-store as a thank you.
Speaking to Stylist, Catarina Midby, H&M UK sustainability manager, said, “We are one of the world’s biggest fashion companies and this comes with both responsibility and opportunity as we have a unique reach and possibility to create change that few others have.
Currently 26% of all H&M products are made using sustainable materials and our goal is to produce 100% of our products using sustainable materials by 2030.”
Recycling clothes at Marks and Spencer
Since launching their Shwopping initiative with Oxfam in 2008, Marks and Spencer has received over 20 million items of clothing.
Customers can leave unwanted clothing and soft furnishings in their local store’s ‘Shwop Drop’ box, and these are then passed onto Oxfam to be resold, reused or recycled.
In 2017 the British retailer also launched a new sustainability plan, in which it outlined its aim to have at least 25% of M&S clothing and home products made using at least 25% reused or recycled material by 2025.
Recycling clothes at Zara
Zara began installing collection bins in its stores across Europe in 2016, and currently has containers spread across countries including the UK, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden.
The clothes left in the containers are donated to charities such as the Red Cross.
Recycling clothes at & Other Stories
You can swap your unwanted clothes, textiles and beauty packaging in & Other Stories stores in exchange for a 10% ‘recycling treat’ voucher. Not too shabby…
This article was originally published in June 2017 but has been updated throughout
Images: Unsplash/Rex Features