Recycling: clothing recycling is a relatively new phenomenon in Australia, and two of the world’s biggest retailers are trying to make it accessible to all. Swedish chain H&M has been offering a service for some years that takes unwanted textiles (from any brand) and recycles them into new fabrics. In 2017, the company collected the equivalent of 89 million T-shirts.
More than 30 per cent of the clothes H&M collects, that is those that cannot be resold or repurposed, is recycled to make fabrics or things such as insulation for the construction industry.
In December, Zara announced its Australian arm would partner with the Red Cross to collect unwanted clothing; the program is available in all 19 Australian stores.
While there are no figures for the Australian program, a spokeswoman said the company collected 12,229 tonnes of clothing, footwear and accessories in 2017 (the most recent data available).
Country Road also has a partnership with Red Cross that allows customers to donate pre-loved clothes (Country Road labelled stock only) in exchange for vouchers.
Reselling: If you want to sell your unwanted clothes, you need to commit to either a market, which can mean early starts and hagglers, or an online tool such as eBay or a Facebook group such as High End.
If you think you can make more than $500 in one day, I would recommend a stall at Round She Goes as it’s indoors and has quite strict criteria for what can be sold (that is, no activewear or discount chain clothing). If you’re selling a one-off piece by a top-name designer, try online. But be realistic, please. Buying a $1000 dress and selling it for $950, even if you have only worn it once, is fanciful.
Donating: Sadly, dumping stuff in a charity bin at the train station and walking away doesn’t mean you have successfully donated your clothes. The bins are often misused and overflowing and this can mean your good deed is contaminated and ends up in landfill.
My best advice is to take it to an independent charity store where a human accepts your donation, and also one you can be confident the proceeds will help the intended cause and not just furnish a nice administrative office.
If you need some help, check out an independent charity-ratings website such as ChangePath to see how various charities perform. Their financial performance doesn’t guarantee that donated clothes will be treated well but it’s a good indicator.
Swapping: It’s summer, why not organise a clothes’ swap-cum-cocktail party for your apartment building or office? Or better still, sign up to the Clothing Exchange, which partners with Global Fashion Exchange to run swaps with a party atmosphere around Australia.
Get the look
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Melissa Singer is national fashion editor of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.