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  • Writer's pictureHazel Verbo

Sustainable Ways To Recycle Garments

Clothing recycling is part of textile recycling. It involves recovering old clothing and shoes for sorting and processing. End products include the following:

  • clothing suitable for reuse

  • cloth scraps or rags

  • fibrous material.

Interest in garment recycling is rapidly on the rise due to environmental awareness and landfill pressure.

For entrepreneurs, it provides a business opportunity. In addition, various charities also generate revenue through their collection programs for old clothing. Garment recycling involves a series of sequential activities as outlined below:

1 - Creating Awareness of Clothing Recycling Website information. A basic step for garment recyclers is to raise public awareness with information about the importance and benefits of donating used items like clothing and shoes. As such, recycling companies often provide educational materials on their websites regarding garment recycling and its importance. They may also explain what items they accept. Informative bins and truck signage. Other approaches to raise awareness are truck and bin markings. Colorful bins help describe what articles of clothing are accepted and what charity benefits from the contribution. Truck signage can also be useful in raising awareness, for example, of home pickup programs for old clothing.

It’s not just about whether that item inherently is good at being turned into something else. It depends on whether there’s local infrastructure and facilities that can manage and sort those materials. And whether there’s a market, which will buy them and turn them into something new in business centers and shopping malls.

2 - Collection

Clothing recyclers use a variety of strategies for picking up clothing. Post-consumer clothing is picked up generally from bins placed in public places, as well as from clothing drives and door-to-door collections. Moreover, colorful bins are positioned in high-traffic, high visibility locations to help maximize donations.

3 - Clothing sorting Once collected, clothing is classified into three groups: reuse, rags, and fiber. Typically this is a manual sorting process that requires expertise in identifying various types of material. The process can be aided by such mechanical systems as conveyor belts and bins to segregate various grades of material. There is, however, at least one initiative to automate the sorting process, known as Textiles4Textiles. Recyclers report that about one-half of donated garments can be reused. Some recyclers bale this clothing for export to developing countries, while some garments are used domestically for sale in thrift shops. Industrial cloth rags and wipes are another important residuals of the recycling process. Additionally, clothing may simply be reduced to its fibrous material.

4 - Processing Textile fabric and clothing commonly consist of composites of synthetic plastics and cotton (biodegradable material). The composition will influence its method of recycling and durability. Collected clothing is sorted and graded by highly experienced and skilled workers. These sorted items are sent to different destinations as outlined. For natural textiles, incoming items are sorted in terms of color and material. By segregating colors, the need for re-dying can be eliminated, reducing the use of pollutants and energy. Then the clothing is torn into sloppy fibers and combined with other chosen fibers, conditional on what the planned end use of the material will be. For instance, once cleaned and spun, fibers can be compressed for use in mattress production. Textiles that are sent to the flocking industry are used to produce filling material for furniture padding, panel linings, loudspeaker cones, and cars. The recycling process works somewhat differently for polyester-based materials. In this case, the first thing is to remove zippers and buttons and then cut the clothing into smaller pieces. Those shredded small fabrics are then granulated and shaped into pellets. As the textile industry continues to grow, it will be challenging to devise ways to boost recycling rates as well as develop technologies that will help maximize the value of recovered material.

What to do with old clothing?

What do you do if you finally reorganize your wardrobe and are left with lots of clothes you no longer want?

Just under 336,000 tonnes of clothing end up in the bin across the UK every year and a staggering £30 billion worth of unused clothing is still sitting in our wardrobes nationwide.

The good news is that whatever their state, there's plenty of sustainable things you can do to #reuse #upcycle and #recycle old clothes, rather than throwing them away.

Collection and recycling scheme

Every one of the 250 H&Ms in the UK and Ireland has a collecting and recycling box in-store and promises that every item will be recycled, reused, or re-worn. If you drop in a bag of unwanted clothes, the company will give you a £5 voucher to spend in-store as a thank you.

Transform and upcycle into something new

Clothes that are damaged, stained, or holey can be given to textile and fabric recycling. Alternatively, parts of them can be used to create new items such as face masks, padding for chairs, car seats, cleaning cloths, and industrial blankets.

Check out local textile & fabric recycling spots

Any clothing that isn’t good enough to be passed on can still be given a new life via clothing banks. You can find clothing and textile banks in supermarkets and local car parks.

Ask your council about textile collections

Many local councils offer clothes and textiles collections, so it’s always worth checking this out on local council websites. These collections are free to use, easy, and the items will be put to good use.

Give to an animal shelter

Animal shelters often use old clothes, towels, and other old fabric and textiles for the animals they have in their care. They use them to clean, make beds and blankets, and help the shelter feel more like home for the animals. Consider bringing old sweaters and t-shirts to help a fluffy friend in need.

Clothes that still have life in them

Donate  to charity

Clothes that are in good condition can be passed on to local charity shops, or there are often charities that will do collections. The Charity Retail website will help you to find your nearest charity shop. Uniforms and company-branded clothing are harder to get rid of but it's worth asking your employers to look into this for you. Old school uniforms can be donated through ‘old school uniform’, or your local school uniform store might have a second-hand rail.

Pass on or hand them down

Hand-me-downs are an excellent option as children grow. It’s both environmentally friendly and save lots of money over the years. This can also be a great solution between friends, if say you’ve changed sizes and want your clothes to go to a loving home, gift them to a friend that fits! Remember to be honest about any damage, make sure they want and will use them, and wash the clothes before you pass them along.

Rent your clothes

MyWardrobeHQ and ByRotation are both clothing rental platforms. Renting out clothes is a great option if you need space but don’t want to completely say goodbye. Spread the joy of a gorgeous garment and make a few pounds in the process. Equally, if there’s no more room in your closet but you want a stand-out outfit for a one-off occasion, renting might be the solution for you!  

Swap your old clothes

See if those closest to you – family, friends or flatmates – are up for exchanging a few items, so you all get some new pieces for free! Swapping will be easier with those you already live with or are in a social bubble with. You could also hold an outdoor meet-up and get everyone to bring a few bits along.

Trade your clothes for cash

If you want to turn your old clothes into cash, it’s easy to do and there are lots of different options. Try Esooko, Depop, eBay, Vinted for vintage and second-hand high street clothing or Rethread, Hardly Ever Worn It, or  Vestiare for higher-end fashion. If an item is a bit faulty, you can still sell it to someone who is willing to repair it. Just make sure to put all the wear and tear details in the description when you list the item.

Children can seem to be growing faster than you can buy new clothes, which leaves a large pile of outgrown clothes still in good nick. Kidclo offers to resell them for you or donate the proceeds to charity.  

Can you put clothes in the general waste bin?

Clothing and shoes - these can be recycled at your nearest textile bank. Polystyrene cannot be recycled at the present time and should go into your grey-lidded general waste wheeled bin.

Similarly, what can be put in a general waste bin?

Materials that should be placed into your general waste bin include:

  • polystyrene and polythene.

  • tissues, napkins, and kitchen towels.

  • nappies, cat litter, animal feces, and bedding.

  • soiled fast food containers and pizza boxes.

  • oil or fat from food preparation or cooking.

  • cigarette ends.

  • broken crockery or glasses.

Large supermarkets like Tesco and Asda offer recycling schemes for carrier bags. This means you can head to Tesco if you have a large collection of carrier bags you no longer want to use.

There are places to recycle clothing, such as Goodwill or Salvation Army, but a curbside recycling bin is not the way to go.

Clothes aren’t considered as often when people are attempting to “go green” and reduce their carbon footprints. Because of their longevity, few people think about recycling clothes, but doing something other than throwing them away is good for the world and good for other people. Being smart about what happens to your clothes after you’re done with them can reduce your carbon footprint and improve both society and the planet, making a substantial environmental impact. Even if you’re just one person, you have the power to make a change for the better and help heal the planet.

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