Recycling information

Textiles represent a significant waste stream in the UK as a result of constantly changing trends and ‘fast fashion’ manufacture and production methods. Out of the 1.13 million tonnes of unwanted clothing thrown out every year, 540,000 tonnes is sent for re-use (around 70 per cent of which is exported overseas) and 160,000 tonnes is recycled.

Around 350,000 tonnes of clothing ends up in landfill every year, despite much of it still being wearable and holding commercial value. While 57 per cent of people in the UK say that they recycle their textiles, 41 per cent say they’re not aware of recycling or re-use facilities for textiles, such as clothes banks or charity shops.

The textile recycling process involves pulling apart fabrics into fibres and re-spinning them, but textiles are more versatile than other waste streams in that clothes can be re-used without much processing.

Encouraging re-use and recycling of clothing and textiles would contribute to a 10-20 per cent reduction of the industry’s carbon, water and waste footprints, as well as benefitting charities around the UK and abroad that raise money through the sale of unwanted clothes or provide them to people in need. So, make sure you try to take a few old clothes down to the charity shop every so often!

You can learn more about how to recycle clothing and textiles on the Wales Recycles website.

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Recycling benefit

Amount recycled 9,630t
CO2 avoided 56,145t
Estimated disposal saving £1,088,228

Recycling process

  1. Collection: Waste textiles or clothes are collected from a clothes bank or are purchased from charities that sell them on in bulk.

  2. Sorting: Incoming material is then sorted by type and colour. The fabric is sorted into colours so that it doesn’t need to be re-dyed.

  3. Pulling/Shredding: The fabrics are then pulled into fibres or shredded, sometimes introducing other fibres, to make a yarn. At this point, polyester based fabrics are shredded, granulated and made into polyester chips. These are then melted and used to create new polyester fibres.

  4. Cleaning/Mixing: The yarn is then cleaned and mixed through a carding process.

  5. Re-spinning: The yarn is then re-spun and ready to be used in weaving or knitting. Not all fibres spun, some used as textile fillers for things such as mattresses.

Where does Wales’ Textiles recycling go?

Top 12 countries (selected materials)

Where does Wales’ Textiles recycling go?

Top 12 countries (selected materials)

Top 10 UK recycling destinations

Top world recycling destinations