Clothing recycling is a way to make use of used clothing that would otherwise end up in the landfill. Here are 18+ ways for how to always donate, sell, or recycle your old clothes so you never have to throw them in the bin.
Getting rid of old clothes and textiles, without chucking them in the bin, is easy if you know how. Even if they're ruined!
Do you realise how much clothing goes in landfill? The answer might shock you!
Over the past few years I’ve made a few changes to become more eco-friendly. I’ve really started thinking about ways we can lessen the damage to the environment from our household.
One thing that still astonishes me is how many clothes people throw into landfill. If you're wondering how much clothes go to landfill then these clothing waste statistics may shock you:
- In 2016, 300,000 tonnes of clothes went to landfill in the UK.
- In 2017, the US dumped 13 million tonnes of textiles into landfill (or were burned!)
- In 2018, around 350,000 tonnes of clothing in the UK went to landfill.
- In 2019 in the UK, 54% of clothing went to landfill, 25% got incinerated, just 9% got recycled and only 12% was reused.
- In 2020, 2.6 million tonnes of returned clothes ended up in landfills in 2020 in the US.
- In 2021, the Environmental Audit Committee found that 15% of all clothing fabric is wasted at the cutting stage of production.
- In 2022 "According to United Nations trade data, the EU exported 1.4 million tonnes of used textiles in 2022, more than twice as much as in 2000. Not all those clothes get reused, and exports of used clothes from Europe to Africa can lead to pollution when clothes that can't be resold end up in dumps, the EU has said." - Reuters
Globally, we create around 92 million tonnes of textile waste every year!
"Around 85% of all textiles thrown away in the US – roughly 13 million tonnes in 2017 – are either dumped into landfill or burned. The average American has been estimated to throw away around 37kg of clothes every year. And globally, an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste is created each year and the equivalent to a rubbish truck full of clothes ends up on landfill sites every second. By 2030, we are expected as a whole to be discarding more than 134 million tonnes of textiles a year." - from BBC article Why are clothes so hard to recycle?
This is crazy! Especially when there is no need for it. Even if clothing is ruined there IS a way to recyle and not many people realise this.
Did you know ALL clothes and textiles can be recycled?
Yes, while you might know of ways to repurpose high-quality clothing, you might not know how to recycle old clothes. But there are ways that even stained, ripped, worn out, useless clothes and textiles can be resued.
I’ll admit. I did throw out old socks with holes into the bin, but not anymore. Since discovering you can give them to the rag trade I no longer throw any textiles in the bin.
I would never have thrown out anything useful though. I always gave to charity or sold our unwanted clothes. It amazes me people still throw perfectly good textiles into landfill.
How to stop clothes going to landfill - how to always recycle old clothing
I was inspired to write this post after seeing a Facebook message of someone saying they’ll be binning some perfectly good clothes if no one wants them!
We need to stop with this binning things we don’t want culture and ruining the environment. Most things can be reused, given away or recycled. So read on and think twice before you bin textiles or clothing.
Here are many ways you can get rid of your old clothing and textiles without throwing them in the landfill bin.
How can I get rid of old clothes and unwanted textiles?
1. Charity shops
A very obvious one, but take your good quality, unwanted items to the charity shops. They’ll be grateful for your donation and you’ll be helping a good cause. They can also recycle anything useless – see the next point.
But how to get rid of old clothes that can't be resold? Even if your clothes are worn out, most charity shops can sell textiles to the rag industry. Just ask them. My local charity shop takes bags for rags and I expect most people don’t know this as there are no signs or anything. Don’t throw away any ruined textiles. Give them to your charity shop and let them sell them as rags. This is much better than items going to landfill. Even useless clothes can have a purpose and be reused.
What to do with unwanted clothes that are in pristine condition, or have lots of life left, especially if branded or costly? If your clothes are in great condition or were quite expensive, consider selling them on eBay and making some pocket money, or recouping some of the original cost of the items.
4. Facebook Marketplace
Another great place to sell bundles of clothes or high quality items is Facebook marketplace. You can reach local people and they’ll even collect them from you.
If you live in the US there's a social selling platform for new and used clothes called Poshmark. You can even use a Poshmark bot to increase your sales and traffic through automation, making selling your clothes online easier than ever.
If your clothes are vintage then you can sell them on handmade and vintage marketplace Etsy.
7. Hand me downs
Consider holding onto your kids clothes to use as hand me downs for your younger children or their friends/cousins.
8. Charity bins
Behind most shops and at recycling centres are charity bins for clothes. They're even in supermarket car parks. Just bag up your unwanted textiles and post them in these boxes.
9. Rubbish removal service
There are many reputable rubbish removal services like kwiksweep in London who not only remove rubbish and junk from your home, but they reuse and recycle as much of it as possible. For the items they clear that are in good condition, they will pass them on to local charities, schools and businesses to give them a new life. It is only the items that can't be used that are taken to the recycling centres and waste management centres where as much as possible will be recycled. They say "We strive to clear all junk in an environmentally friendly manner, maintaining our position as one of the capital’s most eco-friendly rubbish removal firms."
10. Upcycle & reuse
Perhaps you love your white t-shirt, but the colour is a bit off now. Why not buy some dye and change its colour? Or turn that long skirt into a short skirt. See if you can upcycle your clothes and turn them into something you do want to wear.
11. Clothes drop off points
There are some clothes drop of points that you can sell your clothes to by weight. Bag them up and take them to be weighed. You’ll not get very much for them. We donated around 10 bin bags once and got about £10. But you get a little pocket money and your clothes get reused so it’s a win-win if you don’t have the time to sell them individually yourself and you need a little cash.
12. Use as cleaning cloths
Cut up old clothes and use them as household cleaning cloths and rags. Wash and reuse. Once totally tired out, give them to the rag industry.
13. Use as dirty job rags
Fixing the car? Unscrewing an old bolt somehwere that's dirty? Sometimes there are messy jobs we need to do around the home and using a rag to do this stops us getting our hands mucky. Cut up old textiles and keep as messy rags. Wash and reuse them as much as possible, then give to the rag trade when done.
14. Keep for messy clothes
Sometimes you need to do messy jobs such as painting or gardening and you won't want to ruin your best clothes. Keep some old clothes for this purpose.
15. Clothes swap party
Where to get rid of clothes when you need more yourself? Organise a clothes swap party with your friends and family, or search on Google to find a public one!
16. Nearly new sale
For children’s clothes there are regular ‘nearly new’ sales organised as the clothes are grown out of so quickly and barely worn. You can sell the clothes yourself at a stall at some, but at others you price them up and leave them there, simply collecting any unsold clothes and your profits at the end of the day.
Bella was happy really... promise!
17. Car boot
A good old car boot is the perfect place to sell clothes, have fun and make a bit of money. People are looking for serious bargains at car boots, so be prepared for lots of offers of only 20p!
18. Friends and family
Why not ask your friends and family if they’d like to look through your old clothes? My little sister used to love going through my unwanted clothes in our teens and twenties.
19. Charity / clothes recycling bags
Next time you get a textiles donation bag through the door, don't throw it away! Add your unwanted clothing (usually good quality) and they'll collect it from your doorstep. It couldn't be easier to donate. Some will collect curtains, blankets, shoes and other textiles too.
20. See if you can leave out for the council to collect
Some county councils are now picking up textiles on household recycling days. For example, in Cornwall you can leave out your textiles in a bag in the black glass recycling box on recycling day. This makes it easier than ever to ensure people aren't throwing textiles in the bin when they are no longer needed.
21. Sell patches or scraps for repurposing
If you have good pieces of materials such as denim pockets, you can collect a bunch and sell them online to crafty folk to use on bags or for other sewing projects. This is a great way of getting rid of old clothes and possibly making some extra cash!
22. Make hair scrunchies
If you fancy a crafty project then you can use the material from old clothes, along with some elastic band, to make some hair scrunchies in different textures, patterns and colours. Give them as gifts, wear them or sell them to make some extra money online.
Hopefully you can now see there is no need to ever throw any textiles in the bin, ever! They can all be reused or recycled, no matter how useless you may think they are.
And, if you're finding you're always having clothes to donate, maybe start considering what you are buying. Buy better quality and buy less.
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Originally posted in 2017 and updated in 2022 and 2023.