Wardrobe detox: how to dispose of garments and textiles ethically

So, you’ve just had a Marie Kondo moment and there are five bin bags filled to bursting with old clothes sitting by the front door. Your local charity shop might seem the obvious answer, but is it always the most ethical? I take a look at the best ways to dispose of your clothes without contributing to the landfill.

WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) recently reported that ‘an estimated £100 million worth (based on 2015 prices) or around 350,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year.’ The effects are not only profound when it comes to the energy and money it costs to dispose of the clothes, but it also continues the fast-fashion cycle; making room in your wardrobe for the new seasons purchases.

It is unrealistic to think that shopping ethically means not shopping or throwing anything away at all. But we can do a few things to slow down and reduce our fashion footprint.  

SWAP

If you can’t be bothered with the hassle of selling, swapping parties or ‘swishing’ is a great alternative. It is speculated that only 20% of your wardrobe is actually worn on a regular basis, so rather than letting it gather dust, why not pass it on for a friend to love.

SELL

Selling your clothes is the perfect way to cleanse your wardrobe, make some cash and be considerate to the environment. This option is perfect for those bought-for-an-occasion, wore-it-once pieces that are in near immaculate condition but you just don’t see yourself wearing again.

Asos marketplace
Asos marketplace isn’t strictly for vintage and indie t-shirt brands. Anyone can open a boutique for just £20 a month, and in return for a global, fashion-savvy audience, you pay Asos 20% commission of your sales.

Depop
The eBay upgrade, aimed at the young and tech-savvy. Depop is a ‘social shopping app’ that makes buying and selling on a small scale fun.

Buy my wardrobe
Based in the UK, Buy My Wardrobe, is focused on the sale of your unwanted clothes. Whether listed by the seller or by them, the platform aims to make the process as easy as possible, so there is no excuse to contribute to the landfill.

eBay
The original marketplace for home sellers. Don’t overlook eBay when it comes to selling your wardrobe. Listings are easy, posting with Paypal is straightforward and the eBay policy protects sellers in times of trouble.

Thred up
An American online thrift store that takes second hand to a whole new level. You simply fill up a collection bag for them to pick up, market and sell on your behalf; you just wait to get paid! What could be better?

Tradesy
Created to ‘connect women’s closets’, founder Tracy DiNunzio, has filled a much needed gap in the market for the sale of second-hand designer clothes. Tradesy couldn’t make it simpler for the seller by providing a delivery kit for them to package and send their garments. It is their ambition that every product will have had 5 owners in it’s lifetime - ethical, aspirational and totally attainable.

REPAIR

I have never been one to let a trusty pair of ankle boots go without a fight. Whether it’s taking your shoes to the cobblers, or getting your local dry cleaner to patch, rehem or even put a new zip in your jeans, repairing your clothes is by far the more ethical (and cheaper!) alternative to buying something new.

DONATE

Traid
This is no ordinary charity shop. Traid's main mission is to save clothes from landfill and work in developing the garment industry globally. As well as repairing, upcycling and reselling clothes, they also distribute and recycle any textiles beyond repair, in a step to reduce carbon emissions and consumption.

Oxfam and M&S
Oxfam and Marks and Spencer's have teamed up to bring an in store textile collection to the high street. It's their aim to give your old clothes a second life, and, since 2012 they have done just that, taking donations of over 6.9 million garments.

Charity shops
When in doubt, donate to your local charity shop. This is by no means a last resort. Charity shops are always in need of new stock. Just make sure you don't treat them as a dumping ground and only donate good condition, saleable clothes.

RECYCLE

H&M Garment collecting
Much like Marks and Spencer's initiative with Oxfam, H&M want to 'close the loop' in the lifecycle of a garment and have made it even easier for you to recycle your old textiles. They will even give you a £5 voucher for every bag you bring in.

If all options are exhausted but your clothes are simply beyond wear or repair, recycle them. There are clothes banks in every town and city where you can recycle anything from old duvets and carpets to unwanted clothes. Enter your postcode to find your nearest bank and more information about what fibres they accept. 

For further reading or websites about recycling and disposing of your textiles see the links below:

Loveyourclothes.org
Recyclenow.com
Redesigndesign.org
Ethicalfashionforum.com
Wornagain.info
Ethicalfashionforum.co