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Will Marks & Spencer’s clothes ‘shwopping’ take off?

Odd socks – where do they come from? But more importantly: what’s the best way of getting rid of them without the guilt of sending them to landfill? Marks & Spencer says it’s come up with the solution…

Do you have lots of old clothes hanging around in the back of your wardrobe, unworn for months or years? Will you hold on to them, convinced that one day will be the day you’ll wear them again (or perhaps they’re even back in fashion)?

Maybe you’re ruthless and anything no longer regularly worn goes to your local charity shop, clothes bank or jumble sale, so they can be sold on. Or do you just chuck them in the bin if they’re past their best?

Every year we throw away around 1.2m tonnes of clothing. I’m sure many of us take wearable items to a charity shop, give them away or sell them, but what if you can’t? Having recently moved I was faced with the dilemma of what to do with the odd socks, holey t-shirts and other items of clothes not in a fit state to be donated. Unfortunately, despite some research, it all ended up in landfill.

Shwop your socks, save the planet

So I was quite pleased to see M&S’s latest Plan A initiative: Shwopping. M&S is working with Oxfam to re-sell, reuse or recycle unwanted clothing. Stores will have ‘Shwop Drops’ for you to leave your donations, so the process sounds very easy.

I think this a good thing, as I live near a few M&S stores. Every item that’s dropped off will avoid landfill, and the proceeds from donations will go to good causes. But do you think this will be detrimental to charity shops? Hopefully not.

Why can’t we get ditch our duds?

But why was it so hard for me to recycle my clothes before this initiative? Well, while all the good stuff went to charity shops, the local charity recycling bank only took stuff they could re-sell. Fair enough, but that still left me with a small pile of odd socks and holey t-shirts.

Some charity clothes banks will recycle stuff they can’t sell, but the nearest one I knew definitely would was a particularly awkward journey away.

The council website pointed me to the local ‘reuse and recycling centre’ (or the tip as I still like to call it), as did Recycle Now, but without a car it was pretty hard to get to. I’ve turned up on foot before, so I know they don’t really like it.

Some councils will collect textiles along with your standard recycling collections, but ours didn’t. So all I could think to do with the stuff was throw it in the bin – which I really wasn’t happy about.

I know I’ll still donate most of my re-sellable clothes to local charity shops, but when I also have some odd socks to get rid of I’ll definitely go for a Shwop. But then I also think councils should be providing more accessible facilities for recycling textiles (and more consistent recycling, but that’s a whole other rant).

So, will you be ‘shwopping’ your old clothes? Or are there better ways to get rid of your wardrobe woes in your area?


Avail them in car boot sales for access to all.

All Oxfam shops and I suspect some of the other charity shops will take all your old clothes & textiles whether sell-able or not.
I really dont see why you are having problems dropping off all your old clothes at the nearest charity shop (preferably) or in a clothes bank.
It does help them though if you put the completely unsellable items in a separate bag.

Oxfam does have its own “recycling organisation” Wastesavers through which all unsold and unsellable clothes and textiles get channelled for resale through other channels or as a last resort textile recycling and so maximise the money that can be raised from the donated clothes.

EZRecycling says:
6 May 2012

There are many ways to get rid of your old clothes without just ‘throwing’ them and going to landfill. One of the best ways over the last couple of years has been to sell them to cash for clothes companies, such as ourselves. We pay cash per KG of clothing, which is what many charities have been doing for many years with the clothes that people donate to them. Of course if you don’t like the idea of taking cash away from charities then you can always donate the cash you get for them directly to your chosen charity. I like the idea that M&S have come up with just not sure I can see people dragging bags of there old clothing down the high street just to donate them though.

With due respect to EZRecycling , giving clothes directly to a charity which will sell them through their shop system raises a a lot more money than the recycling companies will pay.

However I must say that EZRecycling’s £500 per tonne ( 50p per kg) is far more than some of the doorstep collection companies pay charities for use of their name – I have seen £40 per tonne mentioned on some “charity bags” put through the letterbox.

We still need to be encouraged to take all our clothing for reuse or recycling.

Once upon a time the charities were charged for anything they felt they couldn’t sell – I don’t believe that is the case now.

However they would like clean stuff and the better the quality the more they can sell it for. They don’t seem to sell stuff for a lot of money so if you really think that something is worth quite a lot then it might be worth your while selling it on ebay and donating the money you get. Remember that many charity shops depend on volunteers,

You’ll suddenly wish that you didn;t have so many clothes and sorted through them more often.

Councils will often take odd socks and holey socks in their green bin collections too. These also often get ransacked before they get to the depot.

You can’t control everything so just make a decision. Freeing yourself from things you don’t need or want makes you feel good.