What to do with our unwanted clothes

Have you just had a massive wardrobe clean out and are wondering what to do with that pile of clothes you want to get rid of? Ideally, the best way we can manage textile waste is to try repair our unwanted clothing or even upcycle them, but sometimes that isn't entirely possible due to various reasons.

For those who have torn or stained clothes, dropping them off at an op shop also isn't an option. A good rule of thumb to know if a clothing item is suitable to be donated to a second hand op shop or thrift store is whether or not you'd gift that to your friend. Unwearable items shouldn't just be dumped at op shops or left on their footpaths. So, what now? Since textile takes a long time to breakdown in landfill, it's not the best idea to simply chuck our textile waste in the bin.

Here are a few ways you can recycle your unwanted clothing items:

1. Check with your council if there are any local textile recycling options

When Bathurst Regional Council in NSW first trialled their textile recycling program, they collected 1600kgs worth of textile waste in the first month. For example, The City of Sydney Council offers a free doorstep recycling service, where they'll collect tricky items that can't be disposed in regular household bins from your doorstep or apartment lobby. For other areas across Australia, you can glean a list of your nearest textile recycling services from this website.

2. Bedding and towels

Check if your family/local vet, wildlife rescue organisations, and animal shelters need clean towels and bedding for the animals in their care. Some items like pillowcases and bath and beach towels are listed as high demand items on WIRES' website. Alternatively, Sheridan is the first Australian homeware brand to have a recycling program – they accept any brand of pre-loved quilt covers, sheets and towels for recycling – with collection bins found at their stores.

3. Shoes

Shoes shouldn't be placed in the household recycling bin. If they're not in good enough condition to be donated to op shops, recycle them through services like Upparel, which has a home collection recycling service for clothes and shoes in any condition for a fee. Some retailers, like Zara, have a free recycling program that accepts shoes in any condition. For running shoes, Shoes for Planet Earth is an organisation that provides reused running shoes to people in need across the globe. They have drop off points across NSW, VIC and QLD, but keep in mind that shoes with holes and broken in soles are not accepted.

4. Damaged Clothing

Some recycling services welcome unsaleable and damaged clothing. Upparel sells a home collection recycling service for clothing, shoes, and other textiles in various conditions. For people living in Sydney and Melbourne, After is another home collection service for both used and unwearable clothing. Some retailers, like H&M and Zara, offer free textile recycling for all kinds of clothing.

The bottom line: ask yourself if it really needs to be thrown out

Some clothing items might be completely unwearable, but they can be repurposed into rags for cleaning. Remember, if an item is 100% cotton, it's very much compostable so chuck it in your compost!

Header image from Shutterstock.

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