5 Ways to Recycle Old Clothes, That Aren’t Donating

September 15, 2020

The words ‘sustainability’ and ‘eco-friendly’ aren’t new to the world of clothing, and yet despite this ‘green’ lens supposedly shaping how we shop, Australians still pour about $500 million worth of fashion clothing in to landfill each and every year. Obviously, it’s best to donate pre-loved clothes to charity shops so they can get a second lease on life, but what do you do with the pieces that are damaged or stained, or just generally too worn to make them a quality donation? Well as someone who finds something I love and wears it to the point of no return (or passing it on, I should say), I’ve had to get creative with other ways to repurpose and recycle my very well-loved pieces.

Pyjamas: If I were to do the maths on it, my PJs are by far the most often worn thing in my wardrobe. I love my pyjamas to death. Literally, I wear them until there’s holes galore. However, cut up flannel pyjama pants make excellent cleaning clothes, they’re super soft and delicate and are perfect to use on metal appliances and for getting that streak-free finish on windows and mirrors.

Scarves: If there’s one thing I’m guilty of buying too many of, it’s scarves. They are such an easy thing to pick up without having to visit a fitting room, and they breathe new life into plain, old winter outfits that have gotten a bit boring. However, when a few too many threads get pulled on the woolen ones, or the fabric ones are looking a little thin my favourite reuse for them is repurposing them as boot filler. There’s no need for pricey (and plastic) boot balloons to keep your knee-highs from wrinkling in the back of the wardrobe, a couple of old scarves rolled upwards will do the job perfectly.

T-Shirts: Yes, a beautiful set of lovely Peter Alexander co-ords are a treat, but personally I love pairing my flannel pants with an old concert tee that has got a bit too ratty for public view. Or matching PJs shorts with that souvenir top I bought in Canada 5 years ago. Memories galore and they are always so worn-in and comfy.

Jeans: Denim is such a versatile material. It’s incredibly durable, but essentially, it’s just a special weave of cotton. A quick search on Google or Pinterest will yield a hundred repurposes for the fabric if you’re feeling crafty. But if trimming last season’s flares into a couch cushion isn’t your style (no shade, can’t say it’s mine either) then you might want to cut them up into squares and keep them as outdoors cleaning rags. Perfect for tough scrubbing on window sills and outdoor tiles come Spring time. The slight texture adds that welcome bit of extra gusto to your elbow grease.

Everything Else: search for textile recycling organisations in your local area. Depending on where you live you can find dedicated companies that repurpose clothes that are no longer good enough to donate, repurposing them into things like industrial rags, textile shredding, or even couch filling for newly made furniture.

And a bonus tip, because pillows aren’t technically clothes, but I had to share this gem….

Pillows: This doesn’t really fall under the ‘Clothing’ category, but pillows need replacing regularly too, and I have found a much-appreciated use for them if you’re a pet-loving household. It doesn’t matter how much or little you spend on pet beds, they tend to get a little down-trodden and flat over time, so adding your pillow filling to the inside of a pet bed is going to make the bed feel brand new for your furry friend. Alternatively, give your local pet shelter a call, they’re almost always in need of pillows (and old towels and blankets) to use as pet bedding. Winners all around!

As I said at the beginning, it’s always best to donate clothes to a new home where they can continue to be of use in their intended form, but sometimes clothes are just a bit too far gone (tops I cook in always end up looking like crime season exhibits) and it’s nice to give them a purpose and not simply add them to landfill.

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