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Help Me Celeste: “How do I make sure my old clothes don’t end up as piles in landfill?”

Photography By Ron Lach, @upparelofficial
Published 03.11.21

Have a sustainability question you can’t find the answer to on Google? Welcome to Help Me Celeste – a new series from RIISE’s sustainability expert Celeste Tesoriero.

Q: This weekend, I plan to carry out a big wardrobe spring clean. But I’m getting nervous about all the waste it will produce. What’s the best way to get rid of clothes that aren’t suitable for donation? I hate the idea of piles of my belongings ending up in landfill. Help. 

You’re definitely on the right path questioning this. It’s shown that only about 10 per cent of what we donate actually gets sold in op shops. So, it’s likely your beloved red shirt that’s been with you through thick and thin isn’t making the cut. At this stage, you’re left with two options. 

When something has served its original purpose, always try to think, what’s one more use for this item? Maybe that lucky red shirt can still bring you gratification. If your item is too far gone (is really stained or has too many holes) the first thing you could do is cut it up and use it for rags. T-shirts and old socks are great for this. I picked up this habit from my mum. Regenerative thinking can help you look to generations before you for inspiration on nifty things you can do at home with old items.

If you’re feeling extra creative, you could always save your old garments and upcycle them. There’s a ton of online videos and TikToks on how to make items for yourself and your home, including DIY rag rugs or doormats and scrunchies

Your second option is to turn to Upparel – a business smashing the textile recycling game. For every 1kg of textiles you divert from landfill, you’ll be preventing 3–4kg of greenhouse gasses from polluting the atmosphere. Simply box up your old items and Upparel will collect them for a small fee. It assesses all the clothes that come through its doors, and if not fit for wear they are upcycled into new items or recycled into new materials. Nothing is dumped or sent offshore. Plus, you score a $25 credit to spend on its range of recycled cotton socks (anyone up for a fruit salad pair?). It’s an amazing initiative and saves items going to landfill. 

This weekend as you sort through your beautiful wardrobe, make two piles: one for donation or for selling items on platforms like Vestiaire Collective, and one for items that aren’t suitable for donation. For the pile of clothes that are too far gone for someone else to get enjoyment out of, take your pick at which option you prefer – giving them a second life yourself, or passing them on to Upparel. Either way, happy spring cleaning! 

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