The Lady’s Maid loves to shop for new clothes, but she is also very savvy when it comes to keeping her wardrobe organised so that there aren’t too many items collecting dust and going unworn and unloved. But what to do with these items? One place for which they are definitely not destined is the dustbin. Clothes should be bought to last and not thrown away, but even the most seasoned and stylish shopper will end up with items of clothing that are unwanted – perhaps rash purchases bought in the Sale or garments that no longer fit properly. Throwing away worn-out clothing should be avoided as it is environmentally damaging – millions of garments end up in landfill each year. According to Oxfam, 9,513 garments are thrown into landfill in Britain every five minutes. That’s a total of one billion items a year. As well as the environmental concern resulting from this (because some textiles will emit harmful gases when they eventually biodegrade), there is a huge financial cost to landfill depositing: at £72 per tonne of landfill waste, the cost per year of throwing away clothing in the UK is over £25 million.
Here are a few ways of dealing with your unwanted clothing without resorting to the dustbin:
- Selling unwanted clothing on eBay is a great way to find your unwanted garments a new home, whilst – after all, one lady’s trash is another lady’s treasure!
- High-end designer labels will also sell well on designer second-hand clothing websites, such as www.hardlyeverwornit.com, Vestiare Collective and Cudoni.
- Local Charity shops. Make sure that they are in a wearable condition and wash clothing before donating.
- Worn-out clothing of appropriate fabric, such as cotton, can be cut into rags to use for household cleaning or shoe polishing.
- Clothes and shoes can be recycled along with other household textiles and made into new textiles, such as household insulation or mattress filling. Some clothing will also be sold on for reuse to countries such as Africa. Check with your local council to see if they collect clothing for recycling, or look out for clothing recycle banks in supermarket car parks. Refer to the website www.recycle.com to find out what you can recycle and where.
Retailers and Recycling Initiatives
Marks & Spencer launched an initiative with Oxfam in 2012 called Schwopping to encourage people to recycle their unwanted clothes. Customers were invited to bring along an M&S labelled item of clothing that they no longer wore to a participating store where they would be rewarded with a £5 M&S voucher in return. M&S then donated the clothes to Oxfam, who resell the garments online, in their stores or in international markets. Clothing that cannot be resold can be used to make new fabric for things like loft insulation. Since the initiative was launched, 7.8 million garments have been “schwopped”, which is worth an estimated £5.5 million to the charity. If initiatives such as these are adopted by more retailers, it will significantly reduce the amount of clothes sent to landfill each year. See their website for more details and participating M&S stores.
Jigsaw launched an advertising campaign in 2015 to encourage the idea of clothing being for Life and not for Landfill. Their ads featured clothes from their current collection worn with vintage pieces to promote the idea that fashion doesn’t have to be all about the new and that quality clothing can be classic and bought to last for decades, with the new complementing the old and vice versa.
So before discarding even that worn-out old bra to the dustbin, have a think about the lasting damage to the environment to which you are contributing, and recycle!