Textiles, Clothing and Shoes – Where and How to dispose of them
Earlier this year I shared an article about how recycling bins are being contaminated by families placing the wrong items in them, notably in that article nappies (you can read about that here). Textiles are another one of the biggest contaminations found in the blue recycling bin in East Riding of Yorkshire Council area so in this article we look at how you can deal with those items…
Textiles can refer to many different items, including clothing, sheets, towels, curtains, cushion covers and sometimes soft toys. Although textiles are reusable and recyclable, they are dealt with by specialist textiles recyclers and are therefore not accepted by the East Riding of Yorkshire’s blue bin kerbside collection scheme, so our first message is please don’t place textiles in the recycling bin.
Let’s start with clothing. Half of the clothing worn in the UK is discarded by the public annually and only a quarter of those clothes are recycled, therefore potentially nearly 1 million tonnes of wearable, repairable and recyclable resources are being wasted in the UK each year (reference, SOEX, Nov 2017). An estimated £140 million worth of used clothing goes to waste in landfill every year (reference, Salvation Army).
Unwanted textiles and shoes can be reused, recycled or upcycled in various ways…
If the clothes are still in good condition, either share with family and friends or donate to a charity shop
If the textiles & shoes are not of good quality (i.e. have non-repairable holes or tears in them) they can be ‘Upcycled/Recycled’ into new items (ideas are widely available all over the internet for beginners with no sewing skills to more experienced crafters, try Pinterest or loveyourclothes.org.uk).
If clothes cannot be repaired they are still valuable to some charities and textile recycling specialists so should be placed in the clothing/shoe banks (known as ‘Bring Sites’), although all clothing, shoes and textiles can go in these banks, regardless of quality.
Where are my local ‘Bring sites’: You can find these placed all over the East Riding area, in locations such as rural lay-bys, pub car parks, supermarket car parks and public car parks, as well as at the 10 Household Waste Recycling Sites (or tips) in the East Riding area. You can find your nearest bring site here.
How to use clothing banks (your ‘Bring sites’): Items should be placed in a carrier bag first (to keep dry in the bank) and shoes should be bagged, in pairs. Any bags not placed in banks (i.e. left at the base of the banks or general waste dumped at the base of the banks) are classed as fly tipping so please ensure they go in properly. If banks are full, residents can report the full bank by ringing the charity telephone number displayed on the relevant bank.
What can I put in the clothing banks (‘Bring sites’): None of the clothing banks are owned or managed by East Riding of Yorkshire Council, however they do ask for (and collate) the tonnage figures from the majority of the banks. Different charities take different items so always check on the outside of the banks first. Generally all banks will take all dry clothing, underwear, scarves, hats, gloves and household textiles such as sheets, pillow cases, duvet covers, blankets, towels, curtain and cushion covers etc of all types of quality. Some may also take additional items such as shoes, handbags, belts and soft toys but check the outside of each bank for info first. Items that CANNOT be taken are synthetic pillows, synthetic duvets, foam, carpet remnants or carpet tiles.
Hang onto your old sheets – they make excellent dens when draped over the dining chairs for an indoor den or over garden canes or furniture for an outdoor den. If you have too many ask if your nursery, pre-school or school need any as they often use sheets for making items, even costumes for school plays.
How are the items processed? The collected textiles can be processed and used in several ways…
1) CHARITIES – may either send ‘Rewearable’ items to poorer countries worldwide, to help clothe poorer communities, or sell the recyclable clothing items to the manufacturing sector as income for their charity work
2) TEXTILE RECYCLING COMPANIES – sort the items into various ‘grades’ (sometimes up to 150 different grades) and use these ‘grades’ in several ways such as:
Deliver used, wearable textiles to various international markets (e.g Africa), known as ‘Rewear’. UK textiles are valued by emerging nations for their design & durability, as opposed to Far East alternatives.
Items not suitable for Rewear can be shredded to use in making dusters, sound proofing, mattress fillings etc. Or the fibres can be pulled, separated by fibre type and ‘Reused’ in the manufacturing industry
Tons of zips, rivets & buttons are extracted and ‘Recycled’
The large bags the clothing is collected in (from the bring sites) are sent for reprocessing
Even the dust from these recycling processes is compressed into bricks and used in other materials such as automotive & building industry insulation products, paper & concrete manufacturing or as a source of energy in multi-fuel plants (EfW – Energy from Waste)
Every tonne of textiles ‘Reused’ rather than discarded incorrectly, reduces CO2 emissions by 7 tonnes (reference Salvation Army) so please think about where and how you can dispose of your old textiles responsibly. Please be mindful of and responsible for your waste.