Hey me again, here to tell you about the humdrum subject of what the best things to do with our old unwanted clothes. Until earlier this year I was not sure what the best advice to give was on the topic. I always wondered what happened to our old clothes after we put them in the recycling bins. Did anyone even come and collect them? Call me sad but I genuinely did think to myself, who empties these bins, where does it go, and what happens then?
Well in April this year I had the pleasure of attending a swap & style event held by Love Not Landfill. I had such a nice afternoon at LMB Textile Recyclers in East London, and all of my above questions conveniently got answered. I thought it deserved writing up because sharing is caring.
During the afternoon we got to look around a textile recycling plant and learn all about what happens to our throwaways, then we all got a chance to rummage through some of the discarded gems, one person’s trash is another’s treasure style and had a lot of fun trying on outfits. I have included some of the photos from the event in this article so you can get a feel for the day. I had a great afternoon and learnt a lot. Let’s delve in.
What is Love Not Landfill?
The Love Not Landfill campaign has 1 main aim, to highlight the environmental damage caused by fast fashion, thus helping young Londoners make more sustainable clothing choices. Regardless of age though we all know that recycling is cool, it is. I have learned over the last couple of years the importance of discarding old clothes, properly. Watch out London as Love Not Landfill are soon to be unleashing eye-catching new recycle bins, as a stunt to raise awareness to the cause.
Love or hate fast fashion we all think it is important to have some facts to hand, so we know what we are buying into, and the knock-on effects our actions can have. Keep reading to find out why it is important and what you need to do. Spoiler alert, it is really easy.
Why Should we recycle clothes?
There are so many statistics circling around about fashion being one of the most polluting industries in the world. This is largely due to the rapid pace at which clothes are being produced globally. Since 2000 the amount produced has doubled year upon year, but sadly our clothes are going more underappreciated than ever before, only getting worn 7 times on average before they are deemed old news. This modern way of thinking is resulting in an estimated 300,000 tonnes of used clothing going to landfill each year. This works out to the equivalent weight of 23,715 double-decker buses. BTW this is in the UK alone, in countries like America this number is much higher.
I can’t even imagine what 23,715 double decker busses look like, but I have seen in the past the number of clothes I have sent to the charity shop. Clothes I had been hoarding for years, sometimes enough to comfortably fill one of those big blue Ikea bags.
Now Imagine everyone you know throwing away the same amount semi-regularly. Then imagine everyone they know throwing away the same amount. The chain goes on and all of a sudden it is easy to see how these numbers come about.
Unfortunately, clothing sent to landfill is of no use to anyone, it will sit there for years rotting and releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Even though we fall out of love with our ‘old’ clothes they are much more useful than we think, and quite frankly just binning them is wasting valuable resources.
One thing we can all agree on is that we all love fashion, and we all love our beautiful planet, give me a nod if you agree. Imagine a world where there was less waste. It’s easy if you try.
How to recycle our clothes?
Research where you can find clothes recycling banks near you. Type into google something like, “Clothing recycle bank near me.” We are very fortunate and have one about a ten-minute walk from home. This is what they look like this. In London there are many dotted around, you might pass one by every day and not clock it.
If you are depositing shoes try to keep them as a together by tying the shoelaces to one another or putting an elastic band around them, shoes are generally far more useful in pairs.
If the clothes are dirty, give them a quick wash and make sure they are completely dry before bagging them up and popping them in the clothing bank. If you are refusing to use plastic bags you can put them in loose. Apparently more people of doing this now.
Everything is welcome right down to an old pair of pants, your holey socks, stained T-shirts or moth bitten jumpers. Anything that is not reusable will be shredded and made into insulation or industrial wiping cloths. I find this good to know.
I told you it was easy.
What Happens After We Make Our Deposit?
Big vans will drive around London picking up our discarded stuff then take it back to a warehouse like LMB. Each truckload will then get sorted through piece by piece on a conveyer belt to see whether they are good enough to reuse or need to be recycled. Before sorting it will look something like this.
Around 80% will be sorted and exported for reuse, 10% that isn’t fit for reuse will be cut into wiping cloths, 5 per cent will be sent for flocking and felting, leaving a minimal 5 per cent waste, which normally includes household rubbish, hangers and single shoes.
Clothes good enough to be reused will then be graded and sorted into categories, such as trousers, jackets, dresses, you get the gist. Final categories are baled together, weighed and loaded onto large containers and shipped abroad.
I would like to mention here that it is a common misconception that we can physically recycle old clothes into new clothes. The technology is not quite there yet to do this on a mass scale. I could write a whole post on this alone but I will save that for another day.
How Did Clothing Banks Become A Thing?
With the rise in mass production, the make do and mend attitude was long forgotten. It became noted in the 80s that people were no longer throwing out clothes as a necessity due to them being old and tatty but because they were out of fashion. Often discarded in good condition and these clothes could be easily reused.
Looking further afield it was seen as a mutually beneficial market for exporting second-hand clothes to developing countries, such as eastern Europe and Uganda, where western clothes were seen as desirable.
No solution is perfect for everyone and as everything in life there are some negatives. Since the 80s times have changed, we are consuming more than ever and a lot of countries we are shipping our 2nd hand goods to, are becoming overloaded with product, whether via recycling plants, charity shops or in-store recycling points, often this is where our clothes will end up. This can lead to diminishing local businesses and artisanal craft. Now due to the large amount of ‘donations’ it can feel like we are using these countries rather as a dumping grounds.
This is why Love Not Landfills message is so important. Having recycling plants is very helpful but we must bear in mind that it is not a reason to continue to over-consume. Let’s roundup.
Polite Call To Action.
If you made it this far through the article you might be asking yourself, why do I care so much about what you do with your old clothes? The simple answer is, I am a massive geek and I really do care. If you care even a little, let us know, get involved, share this article and do your bit. Never forget that small actions multiplied lead to big things.
Here are a few bullet points of things we can all do to help reduce our clothing waste:
- Never dump unwanted clothes in your household bin because they clog up landfill and release harmful climate change gases.
- Dispose of all your clothes carefully; sell them, share them or recycle them in clothing banks. Including undies, fancy dresses and stained tops.
- Be more choosy when buying clothes in the beginning so you can help to reduce the problem of waste and pollution.
- Remind yourself of what you already have in your wardrobe before you shop for more. Be a savvy shopper. This will also help save some pennies ready for something you really love.
- Think about how many times you’ll wear an item before you buy it. Will you wear it 30 times or more? If you have not heard of the 30 wears challenge yet, read our post to explain all.
- Know your own style. Does a new purchase go with clothes you already own? Can you easily mix and match a new piece into fun outfit combos?
- Consider buying more second-hand items from charity, thrift stores and vintage shops, you really can find some unique gems when you get into looking.
- When buying something new consider the way your clothes have been made, is it good quality, does the item have longevity, in terms of quality and style?
- Get your mates on board. Follow sustainable fashion groups and share interesting articles. Encourage each other. Caring is cool.
- Steal your friend’s style. Literally. Lend your clothes to friends if they have an event coming up, or hold a casual clothes swap get together. In the past, I have felt great when wearing something on loan from my friend.
There is still so much potential for discussion about this topic, but hopefully, this was a helpful post to get us started thinking. I really hope you have enjoyed hearing about what we learnt at the Event. Thank you so much to Love Not Landfill for inviting us.
Love, Lottie xx