Where to recycle denim in the UK: 12 great options

Where to recycle denim in the UK: 12 great options

Girl in ripped denim jeans for recycling

We all have that favourite pair of jeans that have seen better days. In a fashion waste crisis, it can be difficult to know what to do with old clothes. Knowing where to recycle denim in the UK is a must when it comes time for a wardrobe clean out. In this article we’re going to round up the best places for you to do that.

The world buys over a billion pairs of jeans every year. Meanwhile, the average Brit is throwing away 72 pieces of clothing each year, which of course includes denim.

The impact of denim

Over 7,000 litres of water goes into making just one pair of jeans. The supply chain for denim also contains pesticides used to grow cotton (if it’s not organic cotton). This is as well as AZO dyes to colour it and synthetic fibres blended with cotton fibres to make denim clothing more comfortable.

When this clothing is then thrown away it wastes all the water and resources used to make it. It also amplifies the already hefty environmental impact of the garment.

So, with denim such a popular choice and the world in the midst of mountains of clothing going to landfill, what do we do with all that denim?

Our article Is denim sustainable has more information about the environmental impact of denim.

Old denim for recycling UK
Photo by Ben Berwers on Unsplash

Can you recycle denim?

So, first things first, can denim be recycled? The simple answer is yes. The best way to recycle that pair of jeans that isn’t quite perfect anymore is through a clothing recycling program. There are also good options if your clothing isn’t quite ready for the textile recycling plant. Keep reading for some great ideas.

Where to recycle old jeans in the UK

These are some of the ways you can declutter your wardrobe without making the environment pay for it.

Take back schemes

Quite a few ethical jeans companies now offer schemes where customers can send back jeans to be recycled.

1. Mud Jeans

MUD Jeans offer programs where old jeans are recycled into new MUD styles. By creating new styles from pre-loved jeans, MUD is reducing the carbon footprint and water use associated with its cool designs.

MUD Jeans is an innovative sustainable organisation. As well as its recycling scheme, it has lease-a-jean programs and makes products using sustainable practices.

2. Nudie Jeans

Nudie Jeans offers a similar program to MUD, where customers are encouraged to send back their jeans at the end of life. These are then repaired, restored and resold second hand, while you get a 20% voucher.

3. Baukjen

Baukjen also has a great takeback scheme. The brand offers free collection of pre-loved Baukjen clothing, these clothes are then refreshed and resold on the company’s second-hand platform.

You also receive a £20 voucher. Making this scheme even more worthwhile, Baukjen donates some of the proceeds to Oxfam. Any clothing not in wearable condition is recycled through Oxfam recycling programs.

Other options to recycle jeans

4. Local charity shops

One great way to give your old denim a new life is to donate it to local charity shops. Denim clothes must, of course, be in good resellable condition and not heavily stained or ripped. In donating clothing to a second-hand store, you not only prolong the life of your unwanted clothes but you also help a charity to do their vital work in local and international communities.

To make the deal even sweeter, it helps to cut down on the 300,000 tonnes of clothing that UK households are sending to the rubbish dump every year.

5. Vinted or eBay

If your denim clothing is still in great condition but just isn’t feeling like you anymore, then there is always the option to sell your clothes. Platforms like Vinted or eBay are great for selling unwanted clothing.

Selling your unneeded items gives your denim designs a second life, saving them from going to waste polluting landfill. It also helps to earn you some extra cash in the process. Win, win!

Denim jacket to be recycled UK
Photo by Anton Darius on Unsplash

What to do with old jeans that can't be donated

Sometimes those old denim jeans have been worn until they can’t be worn any longer. But, you still don’t want to throw them away because sending clothing to landfill is never the best option. So, if your jeans have seen better days, then where in the UK can you recycle this denim?

6. Blue Jeans Go Green

Blue Jeans Go Green collect old jeans and make them into something new. Old jeans can become everything from insulation for buildings to pet bed fillings to thermal packaging insulation, promoting a truly circular fashion system.

Making this deal even better, participating in the recycling programs can earn you vouchers and discounts at retailers such as American Eagle and Just Black Denim.

7. First Mile Home

Providing a simple solution for what to do with old jeans, First Mile Home offer free collection for old jeans. These jeans are then sorted and sent to textile processing plants where they can be broken down and recycled. Denim styles are turned into anything from upholstery to new clothing.

A recycling and sustainability organisation, First Mile Home works to help eradicate waste. As well as its denim recycling program, it helps businesses to work more sustainably and offers commercial recycling services.

8. Jeanie & Me

If you have some denim that is 100% cotton and non-stretch that you want to recycle, then Jeanie & Me may be the place for you. The brand makes cool new patchwork bags out of used textiles and clothes.

Clothing can be sent that is marked or worn out. The organisation will even send you a picture of what your denim has been turned into, should you like!

Jeans simply need to be posted to the company and it donates £1 to charity each time they receive a donated pair of jeans.

9. Denim for Dementia

Asking us all to have some fun, get creative and do some good to help those suffering with dementia, Denim for Dementia is a campaign everyone can get behind. Run by the Alzheimer’s Society, the first step of the campaign involves signing up, after which, you will receive a kit with a whole host of fun activities you can do with your old denim.

After choosing your activity you can join the Facebook group associated with the campaign and then gather donations for the Alzheimer’s Society. Not only does the campaign promote a sustainable mindset and encourage us all to have some fun, it also helps to support a worthy cause.

10. Clothing Recycling Programs

An easy way to engage with textile recycling programs is often through clothing recycling bins that can be found around the country. These are often near a local supermarket. To find your nearest recycling point click here.

If your denim really has seen better days, then these recycling schemes can be the best way to get rid of your clothing in an environmentally conscious way. These are a great place to donate denim in the UK.

Photo by Chimi Dávila on Unsplash

How can I recycle denim at home?

11. Upcycle it into something new

From repurposing jeans into a trendy tote bag to making an adorable kids’ apron, to upcycling some old denim into a handy new backpack, the upcycling possibilities are endless.

A blanket, rug, cushion covers or quilt made from old denim are ever-popular upcycling options. Contemporary planters made from old denim clothing are also a common choice.

12. Create a new look

In case you haven’t heard, patched and custom-painted clothing is cool now. If your jeans are a little stained or ripped at the knees, making them not good enough to donate, but otherwise fairly okay, then try turning them into a new style. Patch any holes with some funky fabric or get out the fabric paint and put a trendy pattern or cute picture over that wine stain.

For more on clothes upcycling see our interview with upcycling supremo Danny Calero.

FAQs

Is denim biodegradable?

Some fabrics, when they can’t be worn anymore, can join the compost heap or simply be buried in the garden to quietly biodegrade back to nature. When it comes to denim, whether or not it will biodegrade depends on a few different factors.

Pure denim is made from cotton, a natural material that will biodegrade. However, it is relatively rare in the fashion sector for a denim product to be just denim. Denim is often blended with things like elastane, polyester or other synthetic fibres. This helps to give it stretch to make jeans more comfortable or change the fabric’s properties to alter its fall, weight or overall look.

If denim is blended with synthetic fabrics, these won’t biodegrade, meaning it can’t join that compost heap. Things like buttons, zips, or polyester threads also won’t biodegrade.

To learn about other materials and how they biodegrade, we have a full breakdown on which fabrics are biodegradable.

Can you put jeans in the recycle bin?

This depends a little on the recycling restrictions in your area and the specific makeup of your jeans (for example if they are made from a fabric blend). Many councils require textile recycling to happen through designated recycling centres or bins.

Some councils may also require things like buttons or other materials to be removed before recycling. The best option is to check with your local area council to see if they allow textile recycling through their household recycling programs.

When should you throw away jeans?

There is no secret formula or hard rule for when to throw away your favourite jeans. Like with any other clothing, when they are starting to look overly torn or faded it can be a good time to start looking for where in the UK to recycle denim. Really though, at the end of the day, this is a personal choice and when to get rid of old jeans is when you aren’t wearing them anymore.

For more about clothing waste in the UK, see our article Stats on a crisis: UK clothing waste facts and 7 ways to reduce it.

Jeans on hangers
Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Where to recycle denim in the UK

Whether it’s a pair of jeans upcycled into a cool bag, some dungarees that you can make some cash on, or a denim jacket that’s destined for a recycling centre, there are ways to give your denim another life.

Recycling denim clothing represents a more conscious approach to fashion. It helps to reduce textile waste and stops quality clothing and fabric from going to waste.

So, next time you are having a wardrobe clear out or wondering what to do with those jeans you don’t wear, get recycling. We can all make an eco-friendly choice for our old denim designs.

If you´re wondering where to recycle or donate bras, underwear, glasses, shoes or even your wedding dress, see our articles.

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