A part of eco-friendly living for me is being less wasteful, only throwing things into landfill if there’s absolutely nothing else that can be done with them and reusing or recycling as much as possible. This is even true for clothes. I find it astonishing that people throw old clothes into the bin in this day and age. There are so many ways to recycle old clothes, even if they’re ruined. No textiles should ever be thrown into landfill. In 2016 300,000 tonnes of clothes went to landfill. This is crazy
Fast-fashion and cheap poor quality clothing has meant people are rather frivolous when it comes to their wardrobes, changing their style every month and binning clothes they don’t want any more or that have the slightest of holes in them. A couple of times on the school run I’ve heard or seen a parent offer another parent some clothing and say ‘if you don’t want them then I’ll bin them’. I really hope that’s just an expression and they’re not actually going to put them in the bin! It’s so wasteful and inconsiderate of the environment.
Here are lots of ideas for how to get rid of your old clothes and textiles without ever throwing them into a landfill bin:
There are so many ways to donate your clothes so they can be used again if they’re not too worn out. It’s always a great way to help a good cause. Here are a few ways to donate:
Check local supermarket and shop car parks as there are usually clothes bins where you can donate bagged up clothes, shoes and textiles. Within walking distance of my home there are at least three bins I can think of, which are located outside pretty small convenience stores.
Charity shops are always so grateful for donations of clothes which can be worn again. Even if they can’t use them, they can sell them to the rag trade which I’ve covered in ‘recycle them’ below. I keep a carrier bag hung off a hook inside our coat cupboard and put outgrown clothes in here. As soon as the bag is full I walk or drive to one of our nearby charity shops and hand it in.
If there are no bins or charity shops nearby then make use of the charity bags that are often posted through residential letterboxes. Fill them up with your unwanted items and leave them outside your house on the specified day for collection. Many of the charities also have contact details on the bag so you can keep them for a later date and call them to arrange collection. It’s really made very easy for you to donate and there is no reason to ever throw away your old clothes.
Pass them on
There are plenty of ways to pass your clothes on to people you already know in your family or local community.
Hand me downs
If you have younger children, are planning another baby or know others with children then a great way to reuse is to pass on your clothes as ‘hand me downs’. Clothing babies and children can be so expensive so I’m sure other parents will be more than grateful for a bag of second hand clothes. Growing up, my clothes were always kept for my little sister and we received bags of clothes from our older cousins too. I just loved receiving my cool older cousin’s clothing!
Friends and family
For adult clothes simply ask your friends and family if they’d like any. Once I was having a massive clear out and my friend told a colleague and she came and bought lots of my clothes off me! Obviously you don’t have to sell them, but simply pass them onto friends and family who would be happy to take them off your hands.
If your clothes are of high quality or you have a bundle of similar items to sell, then why not make some extra cash by selling them?
eBay is full of second hand clothing and in my experience it sells really well! I sell a lot of our good quality or barely worn clothing that the kids have grown out of. Bundles of kids clothing sells quickly too, so save up lots of similar sized items to get rid of a lot in one go and usually a quick sale. Make some pocket money for you and the kids in the process. It’s also a lot of fun receiving bids on your items.
If you have vintage clothing (over 20 years old) then you can set up a vintage clothing store on Etsy and reach your target market. Listings are very reasonable at only 15p for a four month listing.
Facebook Marketplace is a great way to reach those in your local area and it saves the hassle of posting the items as the buyer will come and collect the goods from you. Again, bundles work really well or high quality clothing. It’s also free to list items and there are no sellers fees so you get to keep 100% of the sale price.
In the US you can sell new and old clothes on Poshmark. It’s a social selling site and is one of the leading sites in the US to sell your old clothes. Many people have even turned their love for selling used clothing on Poshmark into a business using Poshmark bots to help automate the process.
Nearly new sales
For baby items there are lots of Nearly New Sales at local community centres and church halls. The NCT run a popular one so check their website to find one near you and to see how it all works. As baby clothes are often only worn once or twice before baby grows out of them, it’s a great way to make some cash back from the huge expense of having a child, whilst helping another parent to clothe their child from less than the store prices.
Who doesn’t love rummaging through a good car boot? It’s a great way to shift old clothes, but be warned – people really are looking to pay the lowest price possible! I remember having some Levi jeans priced at just £5 and someone still had the cheek to offer me 20p! If you’re desperate to get rid of a load of stuff for cheap, say 50p an item, then it’s ideal.
Do these still exist? When I was younger our local halls always had jumble sales and I loved going to them with some pocket money. Bring back the jumble sale I say. I’m sure some communities still have them, so check out local halls and community centres to see if you can find one.
Got antique jewellery? Take it to your local antique jewellery shop to bag a sale or even an auction house if it’s really valuable.
Even if your clothes are stained, worn out, full of holes and blatantly ruined, there are still several ways you can recycle them. So just think before you go to throw them in the trash. They could still have a use!
Charity shop rags
If clothes are too ruined for charity shops to sell then did you know some charity shops sell them on to the rag trade? Just ask in your local charity shop and then you’ll not feel guilty about passing on really worn out stuff. You can even keep a separate bag marked rags to make things easier for them. The clothes get recycled and the charity shop still makes a bit of money, win-win!
Cut up old clothes to use as cloths and rags around the home. My husband has a workshop and is often making furniture and all sorts out of wood. Cut up old clothes are perfect for him to use for staining and oiling this wood. They’re also great for dusting and cleaning bathrooms, etc.
It’s a good idea to keep some ruined clothes as ‘messy clothes’. For adults these are great for painting garden fences or pressure washing the drive; basically any job where you don’t want your normal clothes to get ruined. For kids, don’t be afraid of a few stains! Kids get so messy and at nursery or playgroup they do messy play every day so it’s better to keep and use clothes that can get ruined.
Are you a keen sewer or know someone who is? If they make cushions or toys, then perhaps old clothes can be shredded and used as stuffing?
If it’s simply that an item of clothing no longer fits you or you don’t like the style anymore, then consider upcycling the item instead of getting rid. A couple of alterations with a local seamstress can be much cheaper than replacing an item altogether.
Some venues in some cities, such as London, host clothes swapping events. Check out Eventbrite to find tickets by searching ‘clothes swap’. You’ll be surprised at how many events there are near you. You’ll get to discard responsibly of the items you no longer want, but you’ll also walk away with a whole new wardrobe and updated look for yourself!
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.