How To Recycle Clothing In The UK
21st May, 2018
The environment is a very important matter that all should concern themselves with, including businesses and their consumers. From an individual perspective, your carbon footprint has a direct impact on the health of the planet and while this responsibility falls to all, there is an extra concern for businesses - failing to care for the environment could leave a negative impression on your customers.
You may make a point of using the correct coloured bins and disposing of cardboard and compost effectively, but many people neglect to consider other forms of waste.
A third of clothing in the UK is disposed of via refuse (that's £140m worth of clothing going to landfill each year!) This is a concerning amount that suggests that the need to recycle clothing and the means of doing so may be shrouded in mystery to the British public.
We have broken down some of the many options available that can help reduce the impact of clothing waste on the planet.
The issues with disposing of garments actually begins when you first own them. A lot of people do not take sufficient care of their garments which results in them damaging easily and therefore, needing to be replaced more often. Simply following the washing instructions provided on your garments could greatly decrease individual clothing waste, as proper care will ensure a longer lifespan.
There’s also the regularity of wear to consider. In the world of corporate clothing, we have a recommended allocation for each garment type to ensure that comfort and functionality are not compromised whilst also considering the impact of over use and over washing. Someone working five days a week wearing the same garments day in and day out will cause damage to those garments a lot quicker than someone wearing two to three garments across that week.
You can view our own wash care instructions to give you an idea of good practise when it comes to caring for suiting.
If you are wanting to dispose of garments that are too small, too big or no longer of use to you but are still in reasonable condition, then donation should be your first goal. There are a variety of different charity shops that are more than happy to receive individual donations, providing they are of reasonable quality to re-sell (i.e. no major damage, corporate branding or stains of any kind.) This method ensures that your clothing isn’t automatically going to landfill but is instead, repurposed by someone else for a small fee that then goes on to benefit the body of the charity you’ve chosen. As well as charity shops, you can also donate to other organisations such as food-banks or homeless shelters - or even just give them to a family member or a friend if it will be of use to them.
For our own redundant or discontinued garments at First Corporate Clothing, we donate to homeless shelters, food banks, local amateur dramatic groups (for costumes) and local charity enterprises that work to re-skill members of the community in garment repair or alteration.
If the garments in question have stains, branding of any kind or are irreparably damaged, a great alternative is to re-use the material in other ways. Old clothing, if torn up can be easily used for things like rags for cleaning purposes or can even be used for small animal bedding (depending on the fabric and the animal in question). For crafty people, there are endless possibilities - like turning old T shirts into bags, scarves or cushion covers, cutting old damaged jeans to patch lesser damaged pairs or creating blankets and quilts out of a variety of old garments. Websites like Pinterest and other such crafty websites will have a vast variety of options if you are interested and have the skills in those areas. Even if you aren’t, there’s a strong possibility that you know someone who is or could make use of them. There could also be local colleges and schools that hold textile related classes that could benefit from extra bits of fabric.
When it comes to truly recycling your garments, the main option available to the public is textile banks. Similar to bottle banks (for glass bottles), they’re metal banks designed for recycling damaged and unwanted clothing. In most cases, you should try and mitigate the need to recycle your clothes with the suggested possibilities above, as recycling should be the last resort - but there are local textile banks available. It’s just a matter of finding them.
The website https://www.recyclenow.com/local-recycling has a handy locator tool for finding places to recycle locally, with any manner of materials including textile recycling banks. Even in more rural areas there should still be suitable options available to you for you to recycle your garments over throwing them into refuse.
There are a variety of companies that are helping the battle against this clothing disposal epidemic and we at First Corporate Clothing, work with some of these companies for our own garment recycling needs.
JMP Wilcox - These are textile reclaimers and processors operating textile banks who repurpose old fabric and other materials into useful items, like cloths for industrial use out of your old fabrics. Where possible the garments are despatched overseas to be worn by those in great need however for those garments that cannot be recycled in this way they are broken down and are used as soundproofing in cars and also for car seat padding. There is nothing that cannot be recycled, JMP Wilcox can even deconstruct old suitcases.
WRAP - They are a charity that works with UK governments, the EU and other funders to help deliver their policies on waste prevention and resource efficiency.
Hub Bub - This is a charity that focuses on campaigns encouraging people to make more environmentally friendly and greener choices, specifically around food, fashion, home and neighbourhoods.
There are so many different little things both the public and companies can consider when it comes to disposing of their garments other than simply throwing it in the bin and if each person made one small change to the disposal of their clothes then our landfill impact from clothing could be greatly reduced.
For more information on how to recycle your old uniforms, please contact us.