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What is Responsible Recycling?

13 Apr 2022

responsible recycling

We talk about "recycling responsibly" a lot but what does it actually mean? It’s easy to get confused about what clothing we can and can’t recycle.

We talk about "recycling responsibly" a lot but what does it actually mean...

We’ll be real with you, it’s easy to get confused about what we can and can’t recycle in the UK.

Most local authorities have different rules, So yeah, your neighbours one road over might be able to put something in the recycling bin that you can’t. Lots of people fall into the trap of “wish-cycling”, putting something in the recycling bin hoping that they’re doing the right thing.

Spoiler alert: you’re not. At least with clothes, anyway.

We can’t tell you exactly what you can and can’t recycle…you’ll need to check what your local rules for that one. We can, however, give you 411 on “responsible recycling” when it comes to clothes.


Great Britain sends 700,000 tonnes of clothing to recycling centres, textile banks, clothes collections and to charity each year. That's enough to fill 459 Olympic-size swimming pools. (ClothesAid)

The recycling process for textiles is tricky, and currently less than 1% of textiles are collected and made into new textiles. And that's in total.

However, there's more research into recycling happening every year, and some of our exciting partners are able to work their scientific magic, so we're seeing more and more possibilities for making this a reality on a global scale.


Unfortunately not everything that gets put in the recycling bin is actually recycled. And unfortunately, that also means clothes recycling bins. Frustrating, we know!

This can be for a few reasons: lack of resources to actually sort the clothes; lack of facilities and lack of money. They can end up sitting in warehouses, or worse, end up in landfill.

Because typical recycling programs aren't always set up to properly recycle clothes, it's important to find one that will definitely take what you're getting rid of. Recycle Now can guide you to where you can find your nearest recycling partner so you can drop off old clothes.

If you've got your concerns, don't be afraid to ask questions. A responsible recycler will be happy to walk you through their process, partners and logistics.


The environmental impact of the fashion industry is huge, and by recycling our old clothes properly, we can stop as much ending up in landfill, and curb carbon emissions of more new textiles and clothes being made.

For anyone who's interested in sustainable fashion, recycling old clothing sustainably should be the first step for more sustainable living. Once we've chosen to buy something, it's up to us to work out the best thing to do with it at the end of its life.


Responsibly recycling your used clothes and unwanted items means choosing the best route for them to make sure they are recycled in the best possible way. 

And for most of us, working out what the best option is can be very confusing. It depends on what fabrics your clothes are made from, what kind of buttons and fastenings they have, and even the colour. We know, it's a lot to consider.


Before we get stuck into the ins and outs of what actually happens to clothes when they’re recycled, we need to talk about where you can recycle your clothes. We’re talking about the clothes that are too stained, too damaged or too worn to be loved again by someone else.


If you're looking for something local, check if your council offers textile recycling. They will have information on their website about where you can drop your clothes off. It's important to note that this won't be in your regular recycling bin. 

Big supermarkets also often have textile collection bins that are run by charities, so it could be as easy as bringing a bag of old clothes to your weekly shop.

Reskinned Clothing Recycling at LMB Textiles

Want something 100% reliable? Recycle your clothes with Reskinned.

At Reskinned, we're recycling experts, so we want to make it more simple for everyone to recycle old clothes. 

We have a 0% to landfill policy. Send us your old items via our brand takebacks and we’ll sort them by hand. Many will be resold, repaired or upcycled. Those really past it items will be recycled responsibly.


There are two types of recycling. The most common and traditional method is called Mechanical Recycling. The more innovative and developing type of recycling is called Chemical Recycling. 

First up, we sort everything by hand, remove all extras like buttons and zips, and then categorise it. All items are assessed by what type of recycling they are suited for and are then sent on their way to the relevant plant.


This is a more classic type of textile recycling. It involves shredding textiles down into fine fibres. If the fibres are all made of the same fabric - like cotton - these can sometimes be re-spun into new fibres, which can be made into new clothes. 

But most of the time, these fibres aren't good enough quality to be made back into yarn. For these, we break them down to fibres, and then heat press them all together to make a new fabric, which can be used for stuffing new products. Most recycled fabrics are made into things like industrial rags and carpet padding or furniture batting (the fluff that makes your sofa comfy).

It can be used to line your car, make your pet's beds, even insulate your house.

We work closely with brands to find ways to turn their textile waste into resources for their own products. For example, we've helped Sweaty Betty recycle old leggings into stuffing for their punch bags.


Chemical recycling is a way to break fabrics up into their original fibres. 

Textiles get put into big machines (imagine washing machines) that use chemicals to split apart the different materials, so that they can be recycled separately into new things. 

This kind of textile recycling program is pretty new - the technology has only been around for a few years, so companies are still testing out how far it can go. At the moment, it's a lot easier to recycle fabrics that haven't been worn, like offcuts from factories.

Lots of people think that textile recycling always means turning old fabrics into new fabrics. This isn't really the case, but we are getting there. It's a really complicated process which involves breaking down clothing back into fibres and then respinning them into a new type of fibre. That fibre can then become a new fabric and, eventually, a new product.

This process gets pretty difficult when an item of clothing is a blended fabric, which we already know is very common with high-street clothing for cost and comfort. It's challenging to separate out those fibres and there aren't lots of places in the world that even have the machinery to offer this type of recycling.

We work with those who do.

So far we can recycle cotton and some cotton blends. Reskinned are also investing in some really exciting research to drive this type of recycling forward.

Fibre to fibre recycling is the definition of circular economy. The more progress made, the more we can slow down the production of new fabrics and reduce fashion's use of natural resources.


It means that your item of clothing contains a percentage of recycled fibre. With something like polyester, this usually means that the material has been made using some other form of recycled plastic. Your jumper could be made out of used disposable water bottles. Recycled polyester fabric isn’t created by recycling old clothes or textiles.


Look, we're with you. This stuff is complicated and pretty science-y. It can be difficult to get your head round, especially when things are constantly changing and it can feel like there is simultaneously too much and too little on offer when it comes to passing on unwanted clothes.

We've got over 20 years of experience when it comes to textile recycling. We know what we're doing and have built a network of trustworthy recyclers.

At Reskinned, we try to make sure all of your old clothes are repaired and re-homed before sending them to be recycled, because we believe that the longer we can keep the clothing that's already been made in the world, the better. If something has life left in it, we'll make sure it finds the right person to love and wear it. And when clothing gets to the very end of its life, that's when we'll find a way to recycle it. No wish-cycling here. Send us your unwanted clothes and we'll find them a new home, responsibly.

If you want to find out more, read on about responsible underwear recycling, or how takeback schemes actually work

Sign up to Reskinned to find out more about what we do and be the first to find out when drops are happening from the brands you love.

©Reskinned 2023