Tackling the issue of clothes waste

Fast fashion is taking its toll on the planet. Around 1.1 million items of clothing end up in landfill in the UK a week, with one in three items of clothing ending up in the bin. As more and more people become conscious of the damage fast fashion is doing to the planet, a need to source an alternative home for our unwanted or unused clothes is paramount – and new approaches to clothes recycling could offer the answer. From t-shirts to baseball caps, and whether it’s for your own clothes or those from your business, like a restaurant or clothes brand, for those looking for ways to put their old or unused clothing to good use, there are alternatives out there.

There’s innovation across different parts of fashion right now, and ethically-minded companies are fighting to take your old clothes off your hands.


Traid’s ethos is to make the best use of unwanted clothing. The charity, which operates in 191 areas in the UK, encourages people to donate to their shops, clothing banks or arrange a home collection so they can donate their clothes for the greater good.

Unwanted clothes donated to Traid are reworked to be sold in their shops. Traid’s profits go towards funding international development initiatives, improving working conditions in factories abroad.

Get Swishing

For those looking for a wardrobe change, there is an alternative in sight. Clothes swap initiative Get Swishing gives you an opportunity to convert your old wardrobe into something new without parting with any cash. At a “swish,” clothes are donated for tokens which can be used to purchase something else from another donor. If there isn’t a swish going on in your area, there’s an easy guide on setting one up here.

The First Mile

Dedicated recycling company The First Mile will take the unwanted clothing and input it into their textile recycling service, with the promise the clothes will never end up in the landfill. Whether Items are sent to charities in the UK and in developing countries or repurposed into insulation and carpet underlays depends on their condition, but the company’s peace of mind policy ensures consumers their clothing is going to a useful place.

Want to help out a charity of your choice? I Collect Clothes does all the hard work for you. Simply click on the website, choose from eight of the featured charities, and you can arrange a delivery slot for the clothes to be picked up, free of charge.

Against Breast Cancer

Some items can be harder to recycle, especially when it comes to used undergarments like bras. But all is not lost when it comes to lingerie – Against Breast Cancer can save your underwear from landfill. The organisation runs a bra recycling scheme takes your unwanted or unloved bras to a bra bank, raising vital funds for pioneering breast cancer research.

Clothes Aid

Clothes Aid is a London-based company that wants clothes to live on in someone else’s wardrobe. Clothes Aid collects your unwanted clothes for British charities, and agrees a percentage between 84% and 95% of the profit to go to the companies raising for those in need.

Love Not Land Fill

The charity has placed textile banks across London to donate unused clothes. Donors can use the company’s interactive map to discover where they can donate, with textile service JM Barrys organising the unwanted items to go to where they’re needed the most.

H & M

Although it’s not a charity, high street fashion retailer H & M has made its commitment to sustainability known over the years. As well as launching a conscious collection, it has also pledged to use only sustainable cotton by 2020. But since 2013, the shop isn’t just somewhere to buy new clothes, it’s somewhere to recycle your old ones. If you hand in a bag of old clothes at the cash desk, you will receive a £5/€5 voucher to use towards your next purchase of £25/€25 (or more) in store or online.

Want to print custom merch on garments that are sustainably sourced? Want to talk to our team about the options for using ethical t-shirts? At ICON Printing we can advise on every aspect of t-shirt printing and other garments. Get a quote in 2 minutes online.