Five alternatives to throwing your old clothes in landfill
Charity shops aren’t the only answer
While donating to charity shops may be most common option for getting rid of old clothes, only 10 per cent of items are kept in the shops to be sold on. The rest of the items are donated or incinerated, put in landfill or shipped overseas to previously colonised countries, where these garments were originally made. This can build up to a huge amount of waste in countries which don’t have the capacity to deal with such waste properly.
New clothes returned to high street shops are treated similarly, as it’s often cheaper to put them in landfill or incinerate them rather than inspect, repackage and resell. This is especially important as online returns have increased by 95 per cent in the past five years.
Instead of putting your clothes in the bin, returning them, or donating to charity shops, here’s five things you can do so that your clothes are guaranteed to still be in use for a long time.
Donate your clothes to a local charity
Local organisations like women’s refuges, homeless shelters or charities supporting refugees are always looking for clothes donations, and they are guaranteed to be used quickly. Not only does this prevent your clothes from going in landfill, but it means that they are immediately in use by someone who needs them and will truly value them.
In Newcastle, these include North East Solidarity and Teaching (N.E.S.T), who support and empower refugees locally and who are currently looking for small and medium menswear for their learners. One charity which specifically takes underwear is Smalls for All, however they have to be in pretty good condition to be accepted. Before you donate any items, make sure they are in good condition and are clean. If it has stains, rips or is in generally bad condition, see my later point about upcycling.
Give your clothes to a friend
Before you throw your clothes away, check if any of your friends want them! Maybe one of your mates has always loved that specific garment, so organise a big swap and let them have the clothes you no longer want. Covid permitting, you can also see if there are any public clothes swaps happening. Places like Little Green in Sandyford regularly held them pre-pandemic, and it’s worth having a look to see if there are any virtual ones on too.
Sell your clothes online
There are so many ways you can sell your clothes online including Depop, eBay, Vinted, Facebook Marketplace, ASOS Marketplace, and so on. There are loads of options and you could always post them on multiple sites to hopefully get them sold quicker. You can also check specific Facebook groups for online clothes exchanges – some groups even sell clothes for the cost of postage, so if you’re not worried about making money from your old clothes this may be a good option for you. As with donating to a local organisation, make sure the clothes are clean and in good condition before you sell them on.
Upcycle your clothes into something brand new
This one does take more time, but it can work amazingly if you are able to modify an item and have the time and patience to learn how to do so. This could be something simple like fixing a hole or embroidering a pattern, or you could do something more complicated and turn the material into something brand new such as a face mask, cushion covering or turning old trousers into a pair of shorts or a skirt.
You can also cut up old T-shirts and use them as rags for household cleaning or face cloths. Or, if an old pair of socks has holes in and you don’t want to wear them anymore, turn them into juggling balls! Whatever way you can think of using them, go for it.
Keep your clothes and wear them as pyjamas
Also known as our lockdown uniform – pyjamas are difficult items to find ethically and aren’t necessarily something you would always want secondhand. One of best ways to have sustainable pyjamas is to use old clothes, T-shirts and shorts, particularly those that have become a bit baggy or have stains that won’t fully come out. You could also use them for general lazy day/around the house wear, or for doing chores (when you don’t really want to wear nice clothes in case they get damaged, like DIY or gardening).