20 August 2020

Recycling clothes is ‘in’ this Season

Read Time: 4 mins

“Fast Fashion” is defined by Oxford Languages as; “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends” and it’s something which fashion fans in the UK are increasingly fond of. So much so, that clothes recycling initiatives are popping up in fashion retailers across the country in a bid to offset the associated environmental impact.

Research has found that each person in the UK buys an estimated 26.7kg of clothing every year, where the average in comparable European countries such as Germany and France is 15.6kg. But of course, with greater consumption comes a greater impact upon the environment, and much of the clothing that we purchase is made up of synthetic fibres such as polyester, which is in turn is produced by oil.


Unearthed estimates that if “fast fashion” continues to grow unabated, then the total carbon footprint of clothing would grow to 3,978 mega tonnes by 2050. It’s clear that evasive action is needed and it seems that the fashion retailers are stepping up.

In-Store Clothing Recycling

For example, Primark, the Irish fashion, home and beauty chain have recently rolled out recycling boxes in their 190 UK stores and are calling for customers to return unused or “pre-loved” clothes, shoes and bags, regardless of the brand. Profits from the scheme will be donated to UNICEF to support education programmes for vulnerable children all across the world.

Concerning the Primark In-Store Recycling Scheme, a statement from the chain reads; “All of the clothes you donate will be reused, recycled or repurposed, with nothing going to landfill. That means we’ll aim for as many donations as possible to be worn again. But where that’s not possible, your pre-loved will be turned into insulation, mattress fillers or even toy stuffing so that nothing is wasted!”


Primark aren’t the only ones who are introducing clothing recycling schemes though. Zara has been distributing donated items of clothing from its European stores to Red Cross since 2016 whilst H&M reported sending 29,000 tonnes to their partner recycling plant in Berlin and have been recycling since 2017. So it seems safe to say that fashion retailers are attempting to change the culture around clothing. But is that really the case?

Recycling or “Greenwashing?”

The Evening Standard reports that due to the complications of recycling, natural fibres like cotton and wool are of such a low textile quality once recycled, that less than one percent can actually be used for clothing, whilst the remainder is destined to become insulation of mattress stuffing. And the question of how much insulation and mattress stuffing do we actually need, or can legitimately use, is a pertinent one.

On the premise that such recycling schemes are mere marketing schemes, fashion author Dana Thomas told the Evening Standard; “This exercise is greenwashing at its absolute worst. Any brand that plops recycle bins in its store entrances is trying to snow customers, to get them to feel better about all the overconsumption, so they’ll buy more. Simple as that.”


What do you think? Will in-store recycling bins simply encourage consumers to buy more clothing? Or will such schemes open shoppers’ eyes to the downside of fast fashion? We’d love to hear what you think via our Twitter or our Facebook.


About Clearabee

Clearabee operates nationwide on-demand rubbish clearance and waste removal services, with over 120 vehicles and 300 directly employed staff. Our core services include our industry-leading rubbish clearance service as well as our skip bag, skip hire and sofa removal services.

Clearabee has been ranked as the fastest-growing waste management company in Europe for 3 years running and featured on The Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track for the last two years.

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