How to Recycle and Donate Your Clothing Responsibly in the Fashion Capital

How to Recycle and Donate Your Clothing Responsibly in the Fashion Capital

This article is the part of a series focusing on sustainable living and what each of us can do in our daily lives to protect the health of our planet.

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Ruby Veridiano wearing a vintage blouse paired with a skirt by Anthill, a Filipino ethical brand employing local artisans and weavers. Photo: Khattab McIntosh

Everyone knows that Paris is the reigning fashion capital of the world, but can it also be the international sustainable fashion capital?

Given the French law adopted in 2020, la loi anti-gaspillage pour une économie circulaire  (anti-waste law to promote a circular economy), it certainly has high potential to be.

France is one of the first countries to lead the charge on creating formal policies to transform the system of production, distribution, and consumption from a linear model into a circular one. For those who don’t know the difference, the current fashion system operates on a linear model of take, make, and waste.

disposable fashion
© Kirsti Alexandra Reid

On the other hand, a circular model refers to the process in which a product’s end-of-life doesn’t create more waste by ending up in landfills, but rather, reintroduced into the production process so that it can be recycled, reused, repaired, or composted so that it can be regenerated back into nature. 

Thanks to the anti-waste law, France has also accelerated systems for recycling textile waste, and has deployed resources to fund a “repair bonus”, through which consumers can access discounted rates for the costs of mending clothes and shoes from participating workshops. This is critical because, according to reports, textile waste in Europe amounts to 12.6 million metric tonnes a year. Most are either burned or go to landfill. These anti-waste initiatives help keep our fashion from turning into pollution.

The good news?

Refashion, an eco-organization for the textile sector in France, has created several programs to help make it easy and accessible for French residents to reuse, repair, and recycle their textile products (clothing, household linens, shoes) responsibly. On the Refashion website, you can easily find:

  • Collection points where you can drop-off your textile items: Refashion collaborates with Le Relais (street-side containers), recycling centers, and even stores (like Emmaüs) who are also ready to receive donations.
  • Certified clothing and shoe repair specialists, who are vetted by the organization. You can even earn discounts and get cash back to have your items repaired!
  • You can also keep up with regular events that promote opportunities to resell your items and/or update them with new details (new buttons, new trims, etc.) so they can be refreshed.

“You can reduce your textile waste through reuse, recycling, or energy recovery, whether the items are in good or poor condition. In all cases, [our work with Refashion] ensures that your textiles and shoes will be sorted and recovered, rather than discarded in the bin, where it will be incinerated.” – Adele Rinck, Reuse Manager at Refashion.

The best part? If textiles can’t be reused, Refashion ensures that they will instead be transformed into new fiber or new materials for other sectors, like thermal insulation.

However, before you go rushing off to empty your closets, there are several key tips to keep in mind so that your items can enter the donation or recycling system responsibly.

© WiIl Malott/Unsplash

If you are donating clothes

Make sure that the clothes you are donating are of decent quality (hint: if you don’t want that smelly shirt, no one else would want it either! Save that for the textile recycling bin). Check if the items have any holes, tears, and yes, smells. Once you’ve identified decent quality items to donate, clean them before you give them away – this makes it easier for donation shops. Also, clothes and shoes that are currently in season will have a higher chance at finding a second home, so donate accordingly.

Find the recycling bins in your neighborhood to drop off used clothing. © Emilius123_WikiMedia Commons

If you decide instead to recycle

There are a few golden rules to keep in mind for recycling so that it makes it easier to sort your items. Make sure you follow these guidelines from the Refashion website, which are applicable whether you are donating or recycling textiles:

  • Ensure all pieces are clean and dry
  • Close the bags tightly and don’t make them too bulky. (30 liter bags are a good rule of thumb)
  • Tie the shoes together so they aren’t separated during sorting

Never leave anything on the sidewalk or street – make sure it goes safely into the container

Ruby Veridiano moderating a Sustainable Apparel Coalition meeting in Singapore. Photo courtesy of the author.

For those who want to resell clothes 

To find the place nearest you to resell, donate or repair your clothing, this site will help you.

For those who want additional options to repair fashion items, Tilli is another French company that makes it easy to mend and preserve the quality of your fashion favorites. Whether you’re looking to repair a gown, shoe, or leather bag, Tilli can pick up and deliver your items to your doorstep.

With all of these systems in place, it certainly makes it easier for French residents to be more responsible about their textiles’ end-of-life plan. But as I mentioned in a previous article, starting with sustainable fashion habits is key in building out a wardrobe that’s good for you and the planet.

So can Paris become the sustainable fashion capital?

With formal systems combined with YOUR help and commitment, oui, c’est possible!

Ruby Veridiano is a fashion changemaker. She is a sustainable fashion storyteller, educator, and communications consultant whose mission is to connect the dots between women's empowerment and sustainable fashion, and to activate conscious leadership in the fashion industry. She has been a contributing correspondent for NBC News, Nylon Magazine, and Mic.com. As a communications professional, she has worked with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the LVMH Group's Corporate Social Responsibility Team. A global citizen, she is proud to move around the world remaining rooted in her identity as a Filipina-American from California. After 8 years of living in Paris, she is now a part-time Parisienne, and returns to her favorite city every year.

1 COMMENT

  1. I enjoyed your article, Ruby. This is important information for all of us who are consuming fashion. A friend of mine gathers girlfriends twice a year for a clothing exchange, which is both fun and eco (ecological and economic).

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