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Where and how can I recycle my clothes?

February 13, 2024

I want to recycle my clothes! Looking for a recycling location? Good idea. It reduces greenhouse gases. But what is the best way of doing this? There are several. You can give gently used clothing to animal shelters, thrift stores, the Salvation Army or drop off clothing and other textiles to the council for textile recycling via recycling bins.


Another recycling option is to take them to a clothing bank, a charity shop, or second hand shop. You can also make them into something new or donate them to a friend. Textile waste from fast fashion goes into the textile recycling program. You can recycle textiles, including synthetic fibers and natural fiber, into insulating material.

Recycle My Clothes – Charity Shop Journey

When you drop your clothes off at the charity shop, a number of things can happen. If it is a little local charity, they will keep your recycled clothes in the storage room. When there is time a volunteer will sort through your donation. They then decide on a price and put it on the rails in the shop, where someone buys and enjoys wearing it.


A bigger charity might do things differently. At first the same process applies. When you drop your things off, if you are in the UK, don’t forget to sign up for Gift Aid. This is free for you to do, but give the charity an extra 25p for every £1 you raise in the form of tax relief. When your items are sold, many charities will send you a letter letting you know how much you have raised for them.


So you drop your things off, and then they go in the back room to be sorted. But not all your things stay in the shop you dropped them off at. So if you’re wondering where the shoes you donated are and why they are not in the window, it might be because they haven’t priced them yet. Or it might be because they are holding them back until the right season – there’s no point in putting sandals on the rail at Christmas.


But they may have been sent to a central warehouse. From there, clothes and donated items are sorted and then re-distributed to shops around the country. They might also be destined for a recycling programme. Some charity shops commission clothes designers to remake clothing from the clothes in the warehouse. They also may send textiles to be shredded and recycled.

What does that involve?

Recycle my clothes - Coloured discarded woolen textiles

Coloured discarded woolen textiles. Ellen Sillekens, CC BY-SA 4.0


The old clothes are sold to a textile recycling company. At the textile recycling company, clothing is sorted into heaps of different fibres and colours. It is then mechanically shredded. All the different textiles are reduced to huge heaps of fluff. This fluff can be re-spun into new thread. The new thread is re-woven into fabric. This fabric is then sold to clothing manufacturers, who make new clothes out of it. Your old jeans are now new jeans! And the charity recieved money for them. It’s a win for the environment, for the charity and for you, because you now have space in your wardrobe for something different.

Do Good to Feel Good

If the winter blues have got you down, or you feel caught in the rat race, it can help to do something nice for someone else. I know, it seems to make more sense to do something nice for yourself. But consider this. If I give my dog a treat, she is so delighted that I can’t help but grin. I see her smile, her happy dance and her wagging tail. I feel good and she feels good! It’s only a short step to transfer that nice action into doing something good for animals and people where we cannot see the result with their own eyes. They may not be a cute little doggy, but they still deserve to be happy. And if I can achieve this by recycle my clothes, why not?


It is thought that doing something good helps you to feel good about yourself, and understand that you are a nice person. It also may encourage someone else to do something good too, so in effect you’ve done twice the good deed!

Recycle My Clothes – Other Ways to Do Something Great

Recycle my clothes - Polyester fabric made from SAYA fibers from recycled PET

Polyester fabric made from SAYA fibers from recycled PET Green tress, CC BY-SA 4.0

If you love reading books, consider if you are going to read the book you just finished again. I’m not talking ebooks, but physical books, hardbacks or paperbacks. If you thought it was rubbish, consider donating it. If you thought it was great… consider donating it! You can give it to a charity shop. Some don’t take them but some specialise in them, and I have found that browsing the shelves of a charity book shop yields some really interesting finds, plus is generally cheaper, of course.


Even better, drop them off at a little free bookshop. Quite a lot of tube stations and railway stations have a little book shelf and you can drop off something you’ve read and pick up something new to you, for free. When you have read it, bring it back, or drop it off at the next place. It’s just a really nice way to do something sweet for someone else who’s maybe bored on the journey or waiting for the train. A small act of kindness. And when treats like a new book are so expensive, why not?


Also consider going vegan. If you want to do something nice for the animals, like dropping off your old duvets at the animal shelter, even better might be to save their lives by not eating them. It has a huge environmental impact too, as raising animals for meat produces a lot of carbon dioxide and takes up resources when their own food is grown. It takes about 10kg of feed to produce 1kg of beef. Better just to eat the plants yourself!