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Make, Use, Throw Away, Make Another

For several decades, we have allowed ourselves to collectively settle into the unsustainable model of ‘make, use, throw away, make another’ when it comes to our garments and home textiles. Part of the reason for this is that there are so many companies producing poor quality goods using cheap labour in sweatshops abroad that is all too easy for consumers seeking bargains with little regard to the consequence.

As well as the issues surrounding work ethics, this unsustainable model has a hugely detrimental impact on our environment. The immense footprint created by all of the clothing, textiles, carpets and mattresses we dispose of in the UK each year, is astounding, so it is crucial to make sure that wherever possible, this type of waste is recycled efficiently and responsibly. One could safely view this as responsible recycling.

700,000 Tons Of Used Clothing Is Recycled Responsibly Each Year

We generate an awful lot of unwanted clothing each year in the UK and thankfully somewhere in the region of 700 thousand tons of it is either reused or recycled.

Nowadays there are plenty of options for getting rid of your unwanted textiles, so there is really no excuse for putting them in the bin.  If you are unsure of what to do with your unwanted clothing, here are some of the many options available:

  • Have clothes repaired or altered so that you can get more use out of them.
  • Donate your items to a charity organisation.
  • Find your nearest clothing and shoe bank.
  • Sell them at a car boot sale or online by advertising on local sites or one of the larger, well-established ones like eBay or Preloved.
  • Pass them on free of charge, by advertising them on a site like Freecycle, or give them to someone you know will make good use of them.
  • Take quality items to your nearest ‘cash for clothes’ outlet.
  • Recycle on the high street – Marks & Spencer now collect clothing in store for their charity partner Oxfam and at H&M you can exchange unwanted textiles in exchange for a discount off your next purchase!
  • Drop them off at your local recycling centre.
  • Make use of those collection bags next time they are popped through the door!

But What About The Rest?

Every year, somewhere in the region of 350 tons of used clothing, is disposed of in black bag waste and ends its lifespan in UK landfill. This means that despite the fact that it could be reused, or recycled into a new product, more than 30% of our used and unwanted clothing is ending up in landfill each year.

Large quantities of textiles are disposed of with the black bag waste because there is a misconception that damaged items cannot be recycled. There are plenty of uses for damaged textiles and regardless of the condition they are in, they can always be recycled.

The recycling process for garments when they have reached the end of their lifespan and can no longer be used in their current form, often involves shredding, pulling and re-spinning, but this is not always the case.

Other applications and uses for this waste material involve shredding, in order to recycle the material, turning it into products including:

  • Car and home insulation
  • Furniture and upholstery filling
  • Roofing felt and other building materials
  • Cleaning and polishing cloths

Reduce CO2 Emissions and Environmental Pollution

When we reuse and recycle materials for use in our manufacturing processes, CO2 emissions are reduced significantly in comparison to the production using virgin materials. By diverting used textiles from landfill, we save our valuable resources and reduce environmental pollution.

So next time you have a clear out and sort through your old, unwanted clothing and textiles, keep in mind that there are so many better options than simply throwing them out with your household waste!

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