Fueled by the fast fashion industry, every year the world makes, buys, and throws away astronomical levels of new clothes. Luckily by recycling clothing, it is possible to, in a small way, mitigate some of the environmental impact of the clothing and textile sector.
Organisations are finding creative ways to encourage consumers to recycle. This includes everything from schemes to recycle clothes for money to companies offering discount programs to incentivise consumers to send in their old clothes.
Innovative organisations are out there helping to cut down on the tonnes of textiles winding up in landfill. These organisations are helping to create a more positive impact.
Organisations that recycle clothes for money
As the name may suggest, UK-based Cash4Clothes is a textile waste scheme that will recycle clothes for cash.
The organisation will collect men’s, children’s, and women’s clothing, including footwear, outerwear, old denim, and accessories, provided they are clean and still in good condition. The scheme then passes these clothes on to local thrift stores and secondhand platforms around the world, keeping them out of landfill and providing those in need with clothing.
Cash4Clothes has collection points around the country, making it convenient to engage with the program. Depending on what second-hand clothing you are entering into the scheme, the organisation will pay between 30p-50p per kilo for each bag of clothing.
Sustainable brands that recycle clothes for vouchers/discounts
While not all brands offer cash for clothes, there are those that offer valuable vouchers and discounts when consumers engage with their recycling schemes.
We have listed here brands that we believe have truly sustainable intentions behind their recycling schemes. We don’t necessarily endorse big fast fashion giants that are giving discounts on new clothes in exchange for taking in your old clothes.
We’ve highlighted brands that we don’t feel are encouraging you to throw away old clothes too early in order to buy yet more new items and feed their overconsumption model.
Organisations that will recycle clothes from any brand…
Danish underwear brand, Underprotection, are not only the home of high quality sustainable underwear, but also offer a great recycling scheme. If you haven’t bought any underpants previously from Underprotection, you can still participate in the program. Underprotection will accept underwear from any brand into its recycling scheme.
While Underprotection doesn’t specifically recycle clothes for money, it does offer a 30% discount voucher for your next purchase from the store.
To make the scheme extra eco-friendly, Underprotection asks that you wait until you have at least three pairs of underwear that need to be recycled before sending any in to cut down on unnecessary carbon emissions in the shipping process.
Having created an easy way to sell second-hand clothes, Thrift+ is a B Corp certified organisation that sells your unwanted clothing for you. Simply send in your items in a Thrift+ bag, and the organisation does the heavy lifting of listing and selling them through the platform.
When an item sells, the original owner receives Thrift+ points. These credit points can then be either donated or spent, providing a practical and simple way to give your old clothes a second life and a good home.
4. Neem London
Taking old clothes from any label and in any condition, Neem London’s Wear-Well Takeback Bags ensure clothing is repaired, recycled or reused, and most importantly, kept out of landfill. Engaging with the scheme does require purchasing a bag for £5-£7, however, as soon as a bag purchase is made the label issues a £30 discount on any low-carbon NEEM order over £100.
As well as offering a pretty sweet discount for the purchase of new pieces, being part of the Wear-Well scheme helps to cut down on textile waste. The scheme operates across the UK. As an added bonus, packaging purchased as part of the program is plastic-free.
Organisations that will take clothes from their brand only…
A fashion company that operates without the overconsumption principles of the modern clothing sector, UK fashion brand Rapanui offers an impressive circularity scheme. Every product that the organisation creates is made and designed to be sent back when it can’t be worn anymore.
Products that are sent back are processed to create new yarn which is then used to make new Rapanui products. While Rapanui doesn’t recycle clothes for cash, it does offer store discounts when you buy new items. The label also offers free post options so you are never out of pocket when sending old clothing back to this ethical brand.
With the aim to cut down on unnecessary waste, UK brand Finisterre has launched the Reskinned program. This recycling program accepts Finisterre products to keep them out of landfill when they can be no longer worn, don’t fit or are just a style you aren’t feeling anymore.
Products that can be repaired with a little TLC are refurbished and resold. Those garments that are beyond saving are either upcycled or recycled completely.
Currently the program is only accepting jackets, trousers, jeans and knitwear from Finisterre, but is working with the aim to expand to include more products. Those that engage with the program can enjoy using a voucher for future purchases from the label.
7. Girlfriend Collective
Girlfriend Collective’s takeback scheme, ReGirlfriend, upcycles and recycles old Girlfriend Collective styles to give them a brand new life. The sportswear sensation from the United States is working to create a cleaner option for disposing of used gym wear.
To engage in the ReGirlfriend program, consumers simply have to purchase a shipping label, pack up their old leggings, and post them in.
Being part of the ReGirlfriend program helps to cut down on clothing and textile waste, because sending clothes to landfill is never the best option. Those that send in their old garments will also receive $15 off the next time they buy a new clothing item from Girlfriend Collective.
Sustainable brands that recycle clothes (without a payout but to save them from waste)
Some organisations don’t offer cash or store credit for a new purchase when engaging with their recycling schemes. However, these sustainable fashion brands and textile recyclers provide sustainable and convenient ways to save your old threads from landfill.
8. BAM Bamboo
The bamboo clothing specialists, UK label BAM has teamed up with Sharewear to try and prolong the life of quality clothing. When purchasing sustainable items from BAM, conscious consumers can ask for a postage-paid bag that can be used to send up to five kilograms of used clothing into the brand.
These clothes still need to be in a wearable condition, but they do not have to be BAM branded.
BAM’s partnership with Sharewear extends to supporting the No Wear To Run campaign, an initiative aiming to bring awareness to clothing poverty in the UK. While the organisation does not pay money for clothing, it does provide free shipping through its postage-paid bags for those engaging in the scheme.
One of the veterans in the sustainable outdoor wear market, it may come as no surprise that Patagonia hosts its own takeback scheme. Launched in 2021, the scheme encourages consumers to send back their old Patagonia tees when they don’t use them anymore.
These old t-shirts are then recycled through the organisation Infinitely Fiber. From there, fibres are blended with cotton scraps to make new sustainable tees.
Patagonia is vocal about the need to create a more sustainable fashion sector. The recycling scheme for Patagonia clothing is just one part of the brand’s overall sustainability strategies.
10. Will’s Vegan Store
UK vegan clothing and footwear label Will’s Vegan Store is already the place to find animal-friendly garments. However, since starting its Return to Recycle scheme in 2021, it also now offers a sustainable way to get rid of your old styles.
The Return to Recycle project encourages consumers to send back their worn-out styles from Will’s Vegan. These products are then recycled to make outsoles and uppers for new products. As well as this commendable recycling initiative, the brand also incorporates a variety of recycled fabrics across its vegan ranges.
11. People Tree
A long-standing member of the sustainable and ethical fashion community, People Tree takes care to limit the impact of its clothing throughout every stage of its lifecycle. The brand’s Give Back Box programme offers consumers the chance to save clothing from landfill and do some good.
When purchasing new People Tree clothing, the same packaging can be used to pack up used clothes and shoes. A free prepaid shipping label can then be printed out and donations can be shipped via Collect+ to local charitable organizations.
Making this scheme even more eco-friendly, using the People Tree packaging ensures that charities will recycle the packaging appropriately too.
12. Nobody’s Child
In 2022, British fashion label Nobody’s Child teamed up with Re-Fashion to offer consumers a greener way to dispose of their old clothes. The project has made it simple to prolong the life of your clothes by simply ordering a bag, filling it with used but clean clothing and taking it to the nearest drop-off point.
The scheme sorts clothing based on quality. High-quality items are resold, and items that are still good but have had some wear go to charity stores. Clothes that are in poor condition and can’t be worn anymore undergo a recycling process. The good news is that every item of clothing entered into the scheme stays in the UK and no pieces are ever sent to landfill.
Having partnered with UK charity Traid, British fashion label Thought is offering a more environmentally friendly end-of-life for its products. You can download a free postage label to make it easy to send clothes into the scheme. Alternatively, London-dwellers can book a free home collection slot for the pick up of their unwanted items.
Engaging with the program offers an eco-friendly solution for a wardrobe cleanout. Sending just three garments into the scheme, rather than to landfill, can save up to 8kg of CO2 emissions.
14. Pala Eyewear
Offering a circular economy option in the eyewear sector, UK eyewear brand Pala Eyewear, has partnered with Terracycle. The company will accept eyewear frames from any label in its Zero Waste Boxes. These frames are then sent to Terracycle to be recycled into new materials for products from traffic cones to watering cans.
The organisation offers a practical and sustainable way to embrace a more eco-friendly mindset when disposing of old eyewear.
Encouraging an eco mindset
Where done with the right intention, schemes offering take-back programs and recycling clothes for cash are becoming valuable resources in encouraging the development of a more eco-friendly consumer mindset. They help to cut down on the amount of textile waste the average person produces and are great ways to earn or save some extra cash.
From partnerships with third-party organisations recycling money for clothes, to eco brands creating refurbishing and recycling processes for their own products, these platforms are helping to create a less wasteful sector.
Next time you are having a closet cleanout or spring cleaning session, remember these companies are proving that what we thought was trash can quickly become treasure.
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