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Brand and shopping advice

How to recycle your clothes

How to recycle your clothes

An annual spring clean is good for your wardrobe. When you clear out the stuff you no longer wear, you make it easier to find the things that you do. It’s a chance to purge anything that no longer fits, that’s not flattering or that’s worn out. But what’s good for your look is often bad for the environment. Britons throw away around 680m items of clothing in the annual clearout, a third of which ends up in landfill.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Clothes that are still in decent nick can be worn by someone else. Those that aren’t can be recycled, their fabrics salvaged and used to create something new. To help you figure out exactly where your unwanted garments should end up, we created this handy guide.

How to decide what to recycle

If an item falls into any of these categories, put it out of its misery.

  • If it’s got unmendable holes or permanent stains.
  • If it no longer fits.
  • If you haven’t worn it in the last six months.
  • If it’s no longer in your style.

It’s best to be brutal here. “Some items you might never wear but can’t bring yourself to get rid of,” says Thread stylist Freddie Kemp. “Put them in a suitcase and if you haven’t thought about them after three months, let them go.”

How to recycle them

Your clothes’ condition dictates where they should end up.

  1. Fixable damage

Missing buttons, busted zips or small tears are no reason to throw something out. Either arm yourself with a needle and thread or find a tailor who’ll fix them for you.


  1. Good as not-quite-new

If they’re in good nick, there’s someone out there who’ll want to wear the clothes that you don’t. “Try immediate friends and family first,” says Freddie. “Charity shop donations get shipped around and that has a big carbon footprint. So try to be local if you can.” If no one’s interested, a charity shop should be your next stop. If you’ve got enough stuff that it’s awkward to lug to the high street, some charities will collect from your house.


  1. Unwearable

Clothes get damaged, but the stuff they’re made of is still salvageable. “Some fabrics can be recycled and used to make more clothes,” says Freddie. Those that can’t be reused directly are repurposed for things like stuffing furniture. Most recycling centres will have a textiles bin, but some charity shops will also accept ruined clothes which they then sell on for rags.