Why waste your old clothing? Is donating it to charity really the best option?

The rise of fast fashion in Australia means 6,000 kilograms of clothing is dumped in landfill every 10 minutes

The ABC’s War On Waste documentary visualised this statistic by piling a giant mound of clothing waste in the middle of the city. So what are the solutions?

Although many items are donated to charity, a lot of it can’t be resold and ends up in landfill due to the low quality or oversupply of items that don’t sell.

‘Nationally, in a typical year, charities spend about $18 million on disposing items that are unusable or illegally dumped. This money could be better spent helping those in need!’

In some cases, even clothing donated to charity and exported ends up in landfill.

Even if we could stop the production of cheap, fast fashion and ensure that we all purchase pre-loved garments from charity stores, they will all inevitably reach the waste stage. We need to develop more efficient ways to recycle and create a circular economy from textiles.

While improved technologies to recycle clothing and reduce waste are being developed, as a consumer we can take action now.


  • Avoid impulse shopping and resist retail therapy.
  • If you need a new clothing item, consider borrowing it, purchasing second hand or through swapping clothes via online groups or at a clothes swap. 
  • Avoid purchasing cheap, low quality items that will wear out quickly and may not be able to be repaired. Instead purchase clothing made from sustainable natural materials if possible.


  • Reduce the number of items of clothing and shoes you have and get creative with different ways of mixing and matching items.  We typically only use 20% of the clothing and shoes that we have and the other 80% is kept for a what if’ moment eg. wedding, job interview. what if’ we donated or gave away that other 80% and made some clear space or even reduced our need to buy another wardrobe or rent storage space for fitting all our stuff into?


Why is it that we have made it socially awkward to be seen going out in the same outfit more than once? Perhaps we need to get a new attitude towards this, rather than a new outfit?

  • Check out how Beau Johnson can create 50 different looks reusing just 15 different items of clothing on her TED talk – 2 adults, 2 kids, zero waste. Why not see how many times you can reuse and restyle by mixing and matching the clothing you have?
  • If the clothing is in good condition, donate it to charity such as Diabetes SA Ph: 08 8234 1977, Salvation Army Ph: 137 258, St Vincent De Paul Ph: 08 8112 8777 or Goodwill Ph: 08 8202 5070. Winter Clothing can be donated to Red Cross – 08 8100 4500
  • Reuse or repurpose clothing to create another clothing item, bedding and accessories. Creative repurposing with approaches like Visible Mending, or joining communities like Mend It Australia can provide inspiration. 
  • If clothes are worn, out use them as rags for cleaning or mechanical work.
  • Some clothing (preferably natural fibres) can be used for weed matting in your garden, a community garden or through Landcare or Bushcare.


  • Recycling is the process of breaking down or shredding the material then using the fibres to make new clothing or fabric items. Shredded fabric can be used for sound absorption, insulation and stuffing for pet beds.
  • You cannot place clothing in your kerbside yellow bin for recycling. Clothing, bedding and other textiles needs to be taken to a drop-off point for recycling. 
  • Although some companies are recycling some of their clothing the technology isnt yet developed to allow for this to be done on a larger scale, using higher percentages of recycled content.

Which Bin?

If clothing, textiles and footwear is worn out and unsuitable for any of the above options, then please place items in the waste-to-landfill (red/blue lid).


 1. Charities beg people to stop leaving donations outside closed stores amid coronavirus shutdowns, ABC NEWS, Mikaela Ortolan