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Recycling Clothes

The good news is that we like fashionable clothes and the bad news is that we like throwing them away. Imagine saving £3bn per year from the cost of the resources used to make, clean and dispose of the clothing. This would reduce the carbon, water and waste footprints of clothing consumption. What do think of unwanted clothes?


Silly numbers

  • Around 300,000 tonnes of wearable clothing going to landfill every year.
  • We buy more clothes per person than any other country in Europe.
  • We buy five times more clothes than consumers in the 1980s.
  • Charity shop donation rates are high.
  • More than 60% of householders have unwanted clothes and textiles stored at home.

Alternatives for your clothes

  • Repairing increases the garment life and is an effective way of reducing the environmental footprint.
  • Craft education within schools and colleges could foster the repair skills. Most people currently lack the skills, ability or confidence to create, repair or alter clothing.
  • Reusing second hand clothes through resale where new sales take place can make it easier for customers to extend the life of their unwanted garments.
  • Up-cycle, through a growing community of artisans, crafters and micro-businesses who up-repair and re-sell damaged and discarded clothes.
  • Textile collection through charity shops. The UK has one of the highest collection rates of used clothes in the world (per head of population).

How can you make a difference now?

  1. Make them last longer by careful washing and proper storage.
  2. Buy second hand, as charity shops have quality little used bargains.
  3. Give your spare clothes to business organisations who export them to foreign markets.
  4. Much of your recycled clothing can be turned into insulation, stuffing for furniture and material for making paper.

Last year, a UK luxury brand admitted stock burning, where the retailer incinerated unsold clothes, accessories and perfume to protect its brand from the unwanted stock being sold cheaply. After the press intervened, the famous retailer pledged to end the practice and said it will reuse, repair, donate or recycle all excess stock. Let us follow their lead and as individuals, recuse, repair and so on.

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Date: 16 December 2019 by Max Robinson