How to throw away your old clothes responsibly
What is the most environmentally responsible way to dispose of old clothes? Here are some creative ways to reduce your fashion footprint by preventing worn-out or unwanted clothes from ending up in a landfill.
May 20, 2021
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Over 17 million tonnes of textile waste ended up in landfills in 2018, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, making the textile industry one of the largest contributors to waste and pollution on the planet. Too many unwanted garments and old clothes from the fast fashion industry – and elsewhere – end up in landfills all over the world. So, we wanted to take a look at some of the alternative ways you can throw away your old clothes more responsibly to help reduce your fashion waste.
Simple ways to recycle clothing
Around 95 percent of all materials can be recycled and turned into something new. Even badly damaged items can be shredded and used as furniture stuffing. This means that you can almost always send old clothes to a recycling centre or drop them off at your local clothes donation bins. This is a much more responsible and sustainable way to dispose of your pre-loved garments and reduces the amount of unnecessary waste being sent to landfills.
A number of retail outlets also currently offer recycling stations in house, where you can take your old clothes to be responsibly disposed of. If this is something you don't have access to, you could check whether your local city or town council offers any support in this area.
Repurpose as cleaning cloths
We all have that favourite t-shirt or pair of jeans that we finally have had to say goodbye to because we've worn them so much that they are literally now unwearable.
If you have a selection of old garments that are no longer wearable, why not create something new by cutting them up and using them as cleaning cloths around your home? This not only reduces waste but allows you to give your old garment a new lease of life. It's a win-win situation if you ask us.
Mending and upcycling garments
Daily wear and tear takes its toll on our clothes and they often end up damaged or torn. While this might mean that we can no longer wear them in their current form, they may just be in need of some repair or upcycling. If you have a few items like this in your wardrobe, it might be time to get creative and think of new ways to use the fabric.
Simple ideas like turning your ripped jeans into trendy new shorts or transforming that summer dress into a top and skirt are just some of the ways you can ensure your damaged clothes can still be worn. Plus, you'll be adding new, unique pieces to your wardrobe. You could either enlist the help of a seamstress or go online and teach yourself how to mend clothes. Trust us, it will be a fun, worthwhile task that will also dramatically reduce your fashion footprint.
Plan a clothing exchange with friends or family
Organising a clothes swap or exchange is an excellent way to get rid of your own pre-loved clothing items and possibly get something 'new' in return. You might find some pre-loved treasures to add to your wardrobe. This is an environmentally friendly way to offload items you want to get rid of without throwing them in the bin.
You can then recycle or upcycle any leftover items or contact your local clothing recycling centre to see if they will take them.
Compost Your Clothing
Most people associate composting with food and garden waste, but did you know that certain textiles and fabrics can be put in your compost bin too. Clothes made from 99 percent natural fibres like cotton, silk, and wool can be reintroduced to the earth where they will biodegrade naturally without releasing any toxins in the process. Most clothes, as we already mentioned, can be repurposed or recycled. Composting should really be a last resort when disposing of your unwanted items, especially since there are some limitations.
It is important to note that before you begin to compost clothes and materials, you must remove all the buttons, metal zips, and any labels that won't biodegrade. Anything that contains dyes and harsh materials is also not compostable. For example, clothing made from synthetic fibres such as polyester/nylon, acrylic yarn, or microfibre fleece are not suitable for composting as they contain harmful chemicals that can damage the environment and have a lasting impact on the nature that surrounds them.
Even so, composting clothes offers an environmentally friendly alternative to disposing certain types of clothing or fabrics and can contribute towards a more circular economy, where no excess waste of natural raw materials takes place. This regenerative mode of creation helps keep our planet clean and reduces harmful textile pollution.
With the textile industry taking its toll on the environment and the impact of climate change continuing to cause disruption, it is important now more than ever to find alternative ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle unnecessary clothing waste. We should all play our part by avoiding sending unwanted garments to our already overflowing landfills.
Jasmine is a freelance writer and sustainable fashion enthusiast. After years of shopping in fast fashion stores and seeking out the latest trends, she discovered its quality, not quantity, that defines good fashion and style. She now curates a wardrobe she truly loves while staying true to her signature bright and bold style and channelling her love for fashion and eco-conscious ethos into her writing.