Recycling benefit

Amount recycled
CO2 avoided
Estimated disposal saving
Reported as exported

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.

Where does textiles recycling go?

Top countries (selected materials) - 2022/23

Top UK recycling destinations

Country Tonnes
England 4,889t
Wales 1,810t
Company Country Tonnes
JMP Wilcox and Company Ltd England 1,470t
Equestrian Surfaces Ltd England 732t
SWD Premier Clothing Exports Ltd England 384t
unspecified England 370t
Salvation Army Trading Company Ltd England 362t
Potters Waste Management Wales 355t
MZ Rags England 336t
Crest Co-operative Ltd Wales 277t
Eco2 Enterprises LLP England 258t
Salvation Army Trading Company Ltd Wales 244t
Econpro Wales 210t
Cardiff Council Wales 205t

Top world recycling destinations

Company Country Tonnes
unspecified unspecified 513t
Alpet Geri Donusum Sanayi VE Turkey 342t
SOEX Germany 112t
Baudelet Environnement France 51t
unspecified Pakistan 28t
unspecified India 26t
Varoskapu Uzlethaz Hungary 24t
unspecified Germany 21t
unspecified Uganda 20t
unspecified Kenya 14t
St David's Hospice Donation Centre unspecified 12t
unspecified Hungary 10t