How to give old clothes a second chance

What do you do with clothing and textiles that are damaged and in no condition to wear? 

Well if you send them to landfill, they’ll create the greenhouse gas methane which is 25 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. According to ABC's War on Waste, Australians are currently throwing out 6000 kg of clothing every 10 minutes, making us one of the world’s biggest polluters.

But dropping your old damaged clothes in a charity donation bin along with the ‘good stuff’ is still not always the answer. Australian charities report that they, too, send up to 30% of donated clothing and textiles to landfill each year, costing them millions of dollars that would otherwise go to social welfare programs. They say if your old clothing is not good enough to give to a friend, don’t donate it.

So what should you do? Fortunately in Australia there are several clothing and textiles recycling options. 

TEXTILE RECYCLING BUSINESSES: There are some businesses and organisations that export old clothing that can't be sold in Australia to developing nations to be worn, mended, or recycled into rags or used to make bio fuel. For your old clothes to reach these companies, check if your local charity shop has a 'rags bin' (You might have better luck with the smaller independent shops), or check out the retailers listed below. 

FASHION AND TEXTILE RETAILERS: Both H&M and Zara fashion retail giants offer a collection recycling service of unwanted clothes, any brand and in any condition, at all their Australian stores. Clothing in good condition is reused and sold by charities. Clothing and textiles in poor condition are either recycled into cleaning rags or sent to a fabric fibre recycler to create new fabrics and products such as insulation for cars and the construction industry. Special donation collection bins can be found in their stores. Likewise, bedding label Sheridan accepts any brand of preloved quilt covers, sheets and towels, and sock retailer Manrags accepts clean unwanted socks (including odd socks) for reuse and recycling.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Give them away on Facebook. Try your local Facebook community page, or Facebook groups such as ‘Pay It Forward’ or ‘Buy Nothing’. It's amazing to discover how many creative and community-minded people there are out there, ready to take your old clothes, bedding and curtains to extend their life by turning them into something useful or beautiful. Post a photo and description on one of these groups, describing the fabric and its condition, and see if someone can use it. 

BOOMERANG BAGS: Boomerang Bags is a grassroots community upcycling initiative that began in 2013 by two Queensland women concerned about the devastating effect single use plastic bags have on the environment. It’s now grown into 800 communities worldwide. Each group collects unwanted fabrics and sews them into cloth bags to replace single use plastic bags in their community. Groups rely on fabric donations. Google your local group and see if they can use your old clothing and textiles.  

ANIMAL SHELTERS AND VETERINARY PRACTICES: Many animal shelters and vets around Australia appreciate the donation of used bedding, blankets and towels. Call ahead to see what your local vet or shelter needs. Another option is your nearest wildlife rescue organisation.

RAGS FOR MECHANICS: Donations of old towels, sheets and some clothing may be appreciated by your local mechanic for use as rags. 

Good luck in finding an easy local recycling option for your old damaged clothes!

Team Ethica xo

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