8 reasons why you should recycle your clothing

Recycle clothes

For years charity shops have been collecting our unwanted clothes and more recently Joanna Lumley has been urging us all to shwop, but why is it still vital that we recycle more of our unloved clothes?

Here’s 8 key facts from Recycle Now to explain the impact textile waste is having on our environment, the quantity of textiles that are still ending up in landfill and how this waste is costing us all as a nation.

Fast Facts for Textiles

  1. If we changed the way the UK supplies, uses and disposes of clothing, we could reduce the carbon, water and waste footprints of clothing consumption by 10-20% each. This could cut around £3billion per year from the cost of the resources we use to make and clean clothes.
  2. Around £140 million worth (350,000 tonnes) of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year
  3. More than 30% of our unwanted clothing currently goes to landfill.
  4. In the UK, we send 700,000 tonnes of clothing to be re-used or recycled each year – enough to fill 459 Olympic-size swimming pools.
  5. 57% of people say they recycle their textiles.
  6. 41% of people say they’re not aware of recycling facilities for textiles.
  7. More than 60% of householders in the UK say they have unwanted clothes and textiles stored in their homes
  8. In 2010, we threw out an estimated £238m-worth of textiles for waste collection and sent to landfill – but all of this could have been re-used, recycled or sent for energy recovery.

Inspired to recycle more – what next?

Here’s my top tips on how you can recycle more of your unloved garments and enjoy sustainable fashion:


There’s some fabulously creative organisations and websites out there that can teach you how to upcycle your old clothes into something contemporary and unique. My favourite sites include:

Junky Styling – a funky, design-led label, who also offer a ‘Wardrobe Surgery’ service, where customers bring their own clothes in for transformation.

Creating my way to success – an upcycling clothes blog run by Australian blogger, Jill from Cairns, who shares creative upcycling ideas, as well as lots of free sewing tutorials.


Created by Futerra’s CEO Lucy Shea, swishing quite simply is a way to swap your unloved, but presentable clothes, with other like-minded people at a party!

There are now literally hundreds of swishing events taking place each month across the country and the best place to find out more is here:

Swishing.com – the home of Swishing – check out their events calendar to find out where your next local swishing event will be.

Or if there’s no swishing event happening near you, why not try

Swishing.co.uk and online swishing service. Just upload the clothes you wish to swap, send them your clothes and receive virtual money credits in return which can be used to purchase a new item.


As already mentioned, Shwopping is an initiative brought to our high street by Marks and Spencer’s in partnership with Oxfam. Part of their Plan A sustainability committment, Shwopping aims to encourage us to donate more of our unwanted clothes and divert them from landfill, whilst raising money for charity. With shwop boxes sited in their stores, customers can drop off an item of clothing and for each item ‘shwopped’ can text or scan to enter a weekly prize draw to win a £100 M&S giftcard. Items which are desperately needed at the moment include jackets, vintage jewellery and ladies dresses.


If your clothes are beyond repair or not fit for donation, they can still be recycled. Leaving at a textile bank (you will usually find these at your local supermarket or local council sites) the worn out fabric can be reprocessed and used in the industrial market as wiping cloths, industrial blankets and fillings.

How do you recycle your clothes, are you an upcycling whizz or are you about to run your own swishing event, also has Recycle Week inspired you to recycle more?  Let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts, share your creations and news.

If you would like to learn more about recycling and understand what you can recycle in your area, don’t forget to use the ‘Can it be recycled’ widget on the right hand side of this page, or you can visit Recycle Now’s website www.recyclenow.com

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Hi Lyndsey, Great post! I wish I had discovered you before! Reusing clothes is definitely the way forward, esp when it comes to babies and young children (who grow like weeds!)
Our new website relike.co.uk is a great way for parents of growing kids to save money and pass on their outgrown clothes to families with younger kids. We give to charity too…please take a look and tweet us if you feel you want to.

I am just tonight writing a blog post with the same title as yours! Can I please borrow and link to this?
Best wishes. Abbe


Hi Abbe – thank you for your kind comments. I love the idea of ReLike – it makes such sense to pass clothes on for others to enjoy again, not only to save money but to keep perfectly good clothes from going to landfill. Good luck with your venture, I’ll look forward to tweeting with you and YES, please do link to my article, that’d be great.


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