This week (24-30 September) is Recycle Week so I’m encouraging people to help lower the amount of clothes that end up in landfill each year by recycling or donating their unwanted clothing. According to Wrap it is estimated that £140 million worth of clothes end up in landfill each year. Oxfam estimates that 9,513 garments are thrown into landfill every five minutes. These are really shocking statistics that can easily be reduced by recycling or donating your unwanted clothing.
Retailers and Recycling Initiatives
Marks & Spencer launched an initiative with Oxfam in 2012 called Schwopping to encourage people to recycle their unwanted clothes. You can bring along any unwanted clothes (not just those that are from M&S) and put them into one of their “Shwop Drop” bins in exchange for Sparks points. M&S then donate the clothes to Oxfam, who resell the garments online, in their stores or in international markets. Alternatively, you can go to an Oxfam store where you’ll receive a £5 M&S voucher if there’s an M&S item in your donation. 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.
Other stores that now run similar schemes include:
H&M (all brands of clothing in any condition welcome).
&Other Stories (all brands of clothing welcome).
Levis (all brands of clothing welcome).
John Lewis & Partners is currently trialling a scheme which will enable them to buy back clothes from customers through an app in exchange for an e-giftcard to use online.
You can also donate unwanted clothing to:
Zara (currently only available at selected stores). If you live in Spain they will also collect clothes from you if you have made an online purchase.
Donating to Charity
As well as regular high street charity shops, there are a few charities that specifically accept donations of work appropriate clothing which they then offer to unemployed people, to help them dress to impress at interviews. They also provide styling advice and interview tips which is a great way of helping people that may have been out of work for a long time.
Smart Works (Branches in London, Manchester, Reading, Birmingham, Newcastle and Edinburgh)
Dress for Success (London)
Suited for Success (Birmingham)
Designer resale sites
If you have designer clothing that you don’t wear anymore, there are many designer clothing resale sites where they can find a new home. Vestiare Collective based in France is the most popular one for use worldwide. There’s also Hardly Every Worn It and Cudoni based in London.
Recycling worn clothing
Damaged clothes and shoes that are beyond repair can be recycled along with other household textiles and made into new textiles, such as household insulation or mattress filling. 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.
Love Not Landfill is a new campaign set up to encourage young people in London to dispose of old clothing responsibly. They have distributed textile banks across London where you can drop off unwanted clothes.
Remember: no textiles need to be thrown away – even your old bras, socks and pants can be recycled!