Latest COVID-19 Health and Guidance Information - Read here ›
When it comes to recycling, we all want to do our bit to help the planet. But have you ever wondered why you can't recycle old clothes and textiles in your usual recycling bin at home? Let's break it down to understand better.
Recycling is all about taking used materials and making them into something new. But to do this, we need to start with just one type of material at a time. It's a bit like cooking. You wouldn't throw all your ingredients into a pot at once without measuring or separating them, right? The same goes for recycling. Everything has to be sorted out properly.
Clothes and textiles are often made from many different materials all mixed together. Imagine a sweater that feels soft and stretchy. It might be made from cotton, wool, and even some stretchy material like elastane. When we recycle, we need to separate things that are made of the same material. It's like sorting out apples from oranges. But with clothes, it's much harder because all of the materials are mixed together.
At J&B Recycling, we deal with a massive amount of materials - over 200,000 tonnes a year! That's as heavy as about 40,000 big elephants. Because of this huge amount, we use machines to help us sort and recycle. These machines are great at handling things like paper, cans, and bottles. But they can't sort out the mixed materials in textiles. It's too complicated for them, and there's just too much for us to do it by hand.
See how the recycling process works in our video:
Understanding that we can't put our old clothes and textiles in the kerbside recycling bin might leave us wondering, "What can we do then?" Don't worry, there are plenty of positive steps we can take to ensure our unwanted textiles find a new purpose. Here’s how we can all help:
1. Donate for Reuse
One person’s old is another person’s new. Clothes that are still in good condition can be given a second life. Think about donating them to charity shops, local shelters, or community centres. There are also clothes banks and drop-off points in many areas. This way, your old favourites can become someone else's treasure.
2. Sell or Consign
If your clothes are in good condition but no longer your style, consider selling them online or consigning them. There are many platforms and local consignment shops where you can give your clothes a chance to be loved by someone else while also making a little extra money.
3. Repurpose or Upcycle
Get creative! An old T-shirt can become a cleaning rag, a pretty cushion cover, or even part of a homemade quilt. There are lots of DIY projects and tutorials online that can turn your old textiles into something useful or decorative. It’s not only eco-friendly but also a fun activity.
4. Specialised Recycling Programs
Some organisations and companies specialise in recycling textiles, even those that are worn out or damaged. These textiles might be turned into new fibres for insulation, stuffing for furniture, or industrial rags. Look for textile recycling programs in your area or companies that accept mail-in textiles.
5. Clothing Swaps
Organise or participate in a clothing swap event with friends, family, or your community. It’s a great way to declutter, refresh your wardrobe, and ensure clothes get more wear. Plus, it’s an enjoyable way to spend some time with others and share fashion finds.
6. Use Textile Recycling Bins
Look for textile recycling bins in your area. These are different from your home recycling bin and are specifically meant for clothes and textiles. The contents of these bins are sorted, and as much as possible is reused or recycled.
By choosing any of these options, you're not just getting rid of old clothes; you're contributing to a larger effort to reduce waste and support sustainable practices. It's about making conscious choices and thinking about the entire lifecycle of our belongings. Together, through these actions, we can make a significant impact on our environment.
You might also find our article What Can I Put In My Recycling Bin useful.
J&B Recycling are based in the North of England. We process commingled recycling for local authorities across the region and our commercial collection services operate from the Scottish Borders down to Hull and North Yorkshire. Our main areas for collecting and processing commercial waste include Teesside (Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton), Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Sunderland, North Tyneside and Northumberland. If you have any other questions about Recycling, don't hesitate to Get In Touch.