Tackling Textiles – Repair, Reuse, Recycle

Last year alone it cost West Sussex tax payers £1.7 million to dispose of textiles binned by their owners.

That’s a staggering 11,000 tonnes of unwanted clothes, towels, blankets or sheets thrown in with the general rubbish.

Just over 7,000 tonnes of textiles were thrown into rubbish bins at home and nearly 4,000 tonnes into the general household waste containers at the Household Waste Recycling Sites, even though most of these textiles could have been repaired, reused or recycled.

If you throw textiles away, you are actually paying for them twice:

1. When you buy them;
2. When you bin them: the West Sussex Waste Partnership has to pay to dispose of your textiles – and that money comes from your council tax.

It’s not just the cost of sending textiles to waste though, non-biodegradable textiles, such as polyester and nylon can take between 20 and 200 years to fully biodegrade which is not good for the environment.

Textiles placed in home recycling bins can also get tangled in the machinery at the Materials Recycling Facility at Ford, causing the plant to shut down and adding delays to the recycling of plastics, paper and glass.

So this year, the West Sussex Waste Partnership will be helping you to think before you throw and follow these simple steps to reduce your textiles going to waste.

1. Repair – You don’t have to be an expert with a needle and thread, but sewing on a button, sewing up a seam or hemming some trousers are useful skills, it could save a trusty wardrobe staple and give it a new lease of life. Or you could ask someone you know to do this for you.

2. Reuse – If something you love can’t be repaired, why not turn it into something new? There are lots of handy tutorials online to inspire you and get you started on a new project; from making aprons out of jeans that don’t fit anymore to making old t-shirts into reusable shopping bags.

If crafting isn’t your bag, don’t forget that charities will also take clothes, shoes and sheets that are in good condition.

3. Recycle – If your textiles are beyond repair or reuse, or unsuitable for donation to charity, you can still take them to a textiles bank at either your local Household Waste Recycling Site or your nearest bring bank site. Clothes and shoes that still have some life left in them will be sorted and sent for reuse. Old, well-worn or torn textiles will be recycled by shredding and used in the ‘flocking’ industry for things such as car seat fillers.

Deborah Urquhart, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “We always see an increase in the number of textiles thrown away in the general rubbish after Christmas. The New Year often motivates people to have a clear out and one of the first things they look at is clearing out the wardrobe.

“From clothing that doesn’t fit to items beyond repair, there is something that can be done to give items in your wardrobe a new lease of life and keep them going for a little longer.

“Whether you choose to repair, refresh or take textiles to your local Household Waste Recycling Site, bring bank site or charity shop you can easily do something to help save the environment and stop textiles going into your rubbish bin.”

Remember it’s not just clothing that you can take down to a textiles bank, they also accept:
Shoes (paired)
Bags and belts
Bed linen
Table linen
The only items not accepted in textiles banks are pillows, duvets, carpets and rugs. You can dispose of these in the general household waste containers at your local Household Waste Recycling Site.

From now until the end of March, the West Sussex Waste Partnership will be running a campaign called Tackling Textiles, where they will be sharing hints and tips on what you can do to repair, reuse and recycle your textiles, so visit www.wastepreventionwestsussex.co.uk/textiles or follow them @WSrecycles on Facebook and Twitter to find out more.


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