Can Clothes Go In General Waste?

Consumer disposing clothing waste.

In the world of retail and fashion, correct waste disposal practices are fundamental for sustainability. As a UK business owner in the retail sector, understanding how to properly manage clothing waste can make a significant difference in reducing environmental impact and cutting costs.

This blog explores whether clothes can go into general waste, the implications for the clothing industry, and best practices for disposing of different clothing materials responsibly.

Table of Contents

Can You Put Clothes in a Regular Bin?

No, clothes should not go into regular waste bins.

The disposal of clothing in general waste contributes significantly to environmental issues. 30% of unwanted clothes in the UK end up in landfill sites every year, totalling to approximately 300,000 tonnes of old clothes disposed of in household rubbish bins annually.

This practice not only wastes valuable resources but also releases harmful greenhouse gases like methane as textiles decompose in landfills.

Want to know more about what can go in general waste bins? Read our blog here!

Do Clothes Go Into Landfill?

Image of a landfill site containing waste.

Unfortunately, a substantial amount of clothing ends up in landfills.

It’s estimated that £140 million worth of clothing is discarded in UK landfill sites annually. This waste is concerning because textiles can take years to decompose, contributing to environmental pollution and resource depletion.

Recycling and Sustainability Efforts

Despite the significant volume of clothing waste, less than a fifth of used clothing is currently recycled in the UK. This statistic underscores the importance of adopting sustainable waste management practices within the fashion industry.

Recycling textiles reduces the environmental impact by diverting materials from landfills and supporting a circular economy where resources are reused rather than discarded.

Proper Disposal Practices for Different Clothing Materials

Cotton and Natural Fibres: Recycling natural cotton fibres begins with segregating the material from other waste. Once separated, the selected cotton fibres are compressed using a hydraulic press. The resulting bale of cotton fibre is then stored for sale as a high-quality Secondary Raw Material (MPS).

Polyester and Synthetic Fabrics: Non-biodegradable synthetic materials like polyester should be recycled to mitigate environmental harm and lessen demand for new materials.

To recycle polyester and synthetic fabrics, collect and clean items to remove contaminants. Shred or broken fabrics can be melted and extruded into new fibres or moulded into products. This process conserves resources, reduces landfill waste, and supports sustainable practices in textiles.

Wool and Blends: To recycle wool garments properly, collect and separate worn-out items, clean them to remove dirt and oils, and then shred them to fibres for spinning. These fibres are spun into yarn to create new garments or textiles, extending material life, reducing landfill waste, and promoting fashion sustainability.

Environmental Impact of Improper Clothing Disposal

Clothing being recycled in a cardboard box.

Improper disposal of clothing has a significant environmental impact as it can contribute to landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions. Retailers can play a crucial role in reducing this impact by promoting recycling programs, educating staff and customers on sustainable practices, and supporting initiatives that prioritise circular fashion and resource efficiency.

Best Practices for Retailers

Implement Recycling Programs: Set up collection points in-store or partner with local charities and recycling facilities to encourage customers to return unwanted clothing.

Educate Staff and Customers: Train employees on proper waste disposal practices and educate customers on the importance of recycling clothing.

Support Sustainable Fashion Initiatives: Offer sustainable fashion options or promote brands that prioritise eco-friendly practices and durability.


In conclusion, clothes should never be disposed of in general waste bins due to their environmental impact and potential for recycling. As a UK retailer in the fashion industry, adopting responsible waste disposal practices reduces environmental harm and aligns with consumer expectations for sustainable business operations.

By recycling clothing materials and supporting initiatives that promote circular fashion, retailers can reduce the environmental impact of the clothing industry and contribute to a more sustainable future.

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