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What to do with clothes that aren't good enough to donate

Charities can only resell donated clothes that are clean and in good condition. So, what do you do with them if they're not?

May 10, 2024

Op-shops, charities and other clothing donation programs are an awesome way to give your old clothes a second life. But how do you know if they are in the right condition to be resold? A great way to decide is to ask yourself if you would give the item to a friend. If the answer is a resounding 'yes', then it's good to donate, if not, here's what you can do instead.

Facebook groups

Offer your items via a local Facebook group such as Buy Nothing. You'd be surprised what people can use for things such as craft or sewing projects.

Get crafting

If you're feeling creative, you can use fabric scraps for lots of projects.

  • Brighten up a pair of jeans with coloured fabric patches.

  • Make a throw or quilt - this is great for little kids who might love a snuggly blanket made from their old clothes.

  • Make a one-of-a-kind tote bag.

Upparel (formerly Manrags)

This charity accepts clothing, shoes and bed linen (including those which are old and damaged). Items that can't be reused are repurposed or recycled for things such as insulation or pet bed stuffing.

Compost them!

  • If your old clothing is made from natural fibres (such as cotton, bamboo, linen, wool and silk) it's compostable.

  • Remove any non-compostable parts (such as zippers and buttons), chop them into small pieces so that earthworms can munch on them, and add small quantities at a time.

Give clothes back to the retailers

Fashion giants H&M and Zara both have garment collection programs in all of their stores. They accept all clothing - any brand, in any condition - which they either donate to charities (if it's in good condition) or send to a fabric fibre recycler to create new fabrics and products such as insulation for cars and the construction industry.

Retailer Sheridan also accepts pre-loved sheets and towels (any brand) at their stores.

Donate to animal shelters and vet clinics

Many animal shelters and vets appreciate the donation of used bedding, blankets and towels. (Note that many don't accept pillows or doonas for health and safety reasons.)

Easy ways to avoid 'fast fashion'

The best way to avoid filling up landfill with old clothing is to buy less in the first place.

  • If you have a special occasion coming up, rent something instead.

  • Make your clothes last longer by looking after them properly - read the care labels!

  • Declutter and donate - when we have too many clothes, It's hard to decide or even find what to wear. By owning fewer clothes you'll wear what you have, more often and will be much less stressed every time you open your wardrobe.

  • Before you buy something new - ask 'will I wear it 30 times?'. If the answer is 'no', rethink buying it.

  • If you have the space, store away out of season clothing. Then you can rediscover them later and feel like you have something new.

  • Swap clothes with friends.

  • Mend or upcycle. Bored of an old shirt? Replace the buttons to give it a new look.

Textile facts from WasteSorted

  • Australians are the second highest consumer of textiles per capita in the world.

  • We each buy, on average, 27kg of textiles each year - around double the global average.

  • Around 60% of textiles sold in Australia are synthetic and can take hundreds of years to break down in landfill.

Every single kilogram of textiles that you save from landfill by passing them on for reuse, repurposing or recycling (or not buying them in the first place) prevents 3-4 kg of greenhouse gas emissions from polluting our atmosphere - so remember - you're doing something fabulous!

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