Why is Recycling Clothes Important?

Recycling clothes is important as it saves water, materials, and energy compared to creating new garments from scratch. It also keeps old clothes out of landfill sites and incinerators, which reduces the carbon footprint associated with used clothing. Individuals and businesses produce lots of fashion waste, so sustainable management is vital.

In the UK we throw out 300,000 tonnes of old clothes every year – that’s a lot of wasted material. Of this amount, less than a fifth are recycled even though you can recover and reuse many textiles. This includes everything from ripping your favourite pair of jeans, kids outgrowing jumpers, and corporate uniforms and construction workwear becoming damaged.

Homes and businesses should do all they can and recycle rather than bin clothes at the end of their life. These are some of the main reasons why recycling clothes is important:

women's clothes on hangers.

Save landfill space

Throwing away old clothing in a general waste bin means there’s a chance it could make its way to landfill. Some councils and local authorities dispose of general waste in landfill sites, so if you chuck an old t-shirt in your household general waste bin it could now be rotting in landfill.

According to WRAP, around £140 million worth of clothes go to landfill sites in the UK every year. This is a staggering waste of money, terrible for the environment, and clothes take up valuable space in landfill sites that could be used by materials that can’t be reused, recycled, or recovered.

Clothes also release toxins when they decompose in landfill due to the chemicals, dyes, and any synthetic fibres they may contain. These can leach into the nearby ground and water while clothes contribute to methane production as they break down – a potent greenhouse gas. Recycling clothes avoids all such problems.

Preserve water, materials, and other resources

Clothing production relies on using lots of water, raw materials, and other resources. Recycling old clothes eliminates the need to source fresh materials and use up gallons of water to create new clothes. It contributes to a circular economy, while the water and materials saved by recycling can be put to good use elsewhere.

For example, making just one t-shirt uses 2,700 litres of water. Cotton is commonly used to create clothing and it’s highly water-intensive because it’s grown in some of the warmest countries. Then there’s the use of water for dyeing garments, which can pollute clean water in some cases.

Synthetic fibres are formed from crude oil, while the likes of leather, wool, and silk all rely on animals. Recycling old clothes helps recover these materials and reuse them to create new clothing items and textiles. This helps reduce the reliance on gathering fresh materials from such sources, which benefits the environment.

How to reduce clothing waste
green t-shirts on hangers.

Cut carbon emissions

The global fashion industry is responsible for around 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. This is down to the energy required to produce materials and process them into apparel, the transportation of materials and clothing around the world, and the disposal of old and worn-out old clothing items.

If every UK household recycled one black bag full of clothes rather than binning them it would save enough carbon to heat 400,000 homes. Emissions from incineration and methane from clothes decomposing in landfill are huge. Recycling avoids this and cuts carbon emissions as it’s more energy-efficient than producing new clothes.

Fight fast fashion

The trend for buying cheap clothing and wearing items a few times before discarding them is devastating for the environment. Fast fashion is one of the main polluters in the world. Reassessing your spending habits as a consumer and recycling used clothes is an easy way to tackle the issue.

Businesses can also play a part by adapting their practices. Clothes retailers could reduce how many new seasons and collections they introduce. Offering an incentive to customers who recycle their old items in-store can also benefit the environment, whether it’s a discount or providing access to a new range.

Other companies also rely on clothing, such as uniforms in restaurants, construction gear, and even suits for lawyers. Set a good example as a business by reusing and recycling business clothing where possible and avoid updating designs too regularly, as this can create unnecessary waste.

How to recycle clothes
fashion waste in a factory.

Help those in need

An easy way to recycle clothes that are in decent condition is to donate them to a local charity or community cause. Some charities will sell them in their shops to benefit their work while others may send them directly to those in need. You can also recycle clothes at clothing banks to help good causes.

Businesses that have lots of old clothes, such as excess stock or used corporate workwear, can also donate those in usable condition to charities. It’s a great way to do your bit, help others, and avoid such waste going to landfill.

If you run a business that needs textile collection and recycling services then at Business Waste we can help – whatever the type, volume, and condition of the old clothes. Get a free quote for clothes recycling for your business anywhere in the UK today – call 0800 211 8390 or contact us online.

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