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How Should You Get Rid Of Your Old Clothes, Exactly?


Vogue Arabia, May 2022. Photo: Yelena Yemchuk

In an ideal world, all of our clothes would be forever purchases that would stay in our wardrobes for a lifetime. In reality, this doesn’t always happen: we grow out of them, they get worn out, or perhaps we feel like they just don’t suit us anymore.

But given that a shocking 70 per cent of our clothes end up in landfill, often in countries in the Global South, how should we get rid of our old clothes in a responsible manner? While a growing number of brands are now offering take-back schemes that promise to give your garments a second life, a recent investigation by the Changing Markets Foundation found that the majority of items were downcycled or destroyed, lost in limbo, or shipped to Africa.

“[Take-back schemes] might give a temporary guilt relief to consumers, but in reality, these schemes are just a sticking plaster solution, perpetuating the ugly reality of fast fashion’s business model,” Nusa Urbancic, CEO of Changing Markets Foundation, tells Vogue.

Below, we asked the experts for their top tips on what we should actually do with clothes we no longer want.

Sell them on

One of the best ways to ensure that your clothes go on to have a second life is by selling them on via a second-hand resale platform such as Vestiaire Collective, Depop or eBay. “The most responsible way to ‘dispose’ of unwanted clothes is to ensure they remain in circulation and continue being worn, assuming they’re in good enough shape,” Sol Escobar, founder of Give Your Best, says.

Organize a clothing swap

If uploading and posting all of your items seems like a lot of effort to you, you could organize a clothing swap with friends, again making sure that they actually go to a new home. Alternatively, find a swap shop near you.

Donate to charity

While many charity shops are overwhelmed with low-quality garments these days, clothing donations still remain an important source of income for charities. “Most charities will say they only want to receive items in good condition so please do donate things that are still good to be worn by someone else,” Sarah Gray, lead analyst for textiles at WRAP, says.

Meanwhile, online platform Give Your Best allows people to donate their unwanted garments to refugees, victims of trafficking and domestic violence survivors. “[The clothes] can then be shopped online for free by women and children living in clothing poverty,” Escobar explains.

Order a Thrift+ bag

If you’re clearing out a lot of items from your closet, it might be worth ordering a Thrift+ bag, which you can fill with your pre-loved items. The platform will then resell the clothes that are in good enough condition, in exchange for Thrift+ points that you can spend on their site, with one of their partners (which include Farfetch and Browns), or donate to charity. Anything that they can’t sell on will be donated to charity or recycled responsibly.

Repair your clothes

Repairing or fixing any issues before you get rid of your clothes will also ensure that they don’t end up in landfill. “Making sure they are in good condition [will help] them to get another life in someone else’s wardrobe,” Gray concludes.

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