No matter how well you look after your clothes, at some point you'll end up with a knackered top that has given all the life it has to give.
When an item of clothing is beyond repair, there is only really a few options left. You can either upcycle the garment into something else or you can look for somewhere that recycles textiles.
A Guide to Recycling your Rags
Step 1: Upcycle your damaged clothes
Sometimes a ripped garment can't be worn like it was originally intended. But that doesn't mean you can't rework it into something else.
Here's a few ideas to spark some creations using old clothing.
- T-Shirt tote bag
- Visible mending - can't repair something seamlessly? Make a statement piece out of it. Why not try Sashiko?
- Cleaning cloths. Simply cut your old clothing up into squares to use as cloths.
- Make a draught excluder.
- Transformation challenge: you could turn a jumper into a nice warm hat, or you could do what our excellent sewers did and create a totally different garment from two pieces of damaged clothing.
- Braided rug.
- Use pretty patterned fabrics for furoshiki.
- Check out these amazing upcycled denim creations
Step 2: Time to Recycle rags
It's always better to try to squeeze every last bit of use out of an item before recycling it.
This is because textile recycling is really quite energy intensive. Not all clothes can be fully recycled too which results in more waste to landfill.
Another issue with textile recycling is actually finding somewhere locally that does accept rags. We reached out and these two charities got back to us about what they do with rags.
"We do sell “rag” (anything we can’t sell) to a rag merchant which is an important income steam for Mind allowing us to invest even more money in vital mental health services.
"We are also able to recycle books and other household items.
"Rag merchants recycle the items for us across a lot of different areas- stuffing for mattresses, carpet underlay etc."
British Heart Foundation
"‘Rags’ is a tricky one. What we are able to sell within the shop is almost always items that can be used as they are. There is value in garments that can be repaired, but unfortunately for a lot of clothing in the UK the cost of repair outweighs the cost of buying new. We have bulk outlets through merchants who trade in used clothing and they are generally able to find a buyer for most grades on export markets. This is often referred to as ‘rag’ and the industry is known as ‘textile recycling’, but it is all about re-use and that’s where the value is for the overseas traders, the merchants and the charity."
"As a result we request clothing which is still wearable. If we had too many badly damaged garments or textile scraps (literally rags) we might not be able to sell these at all."
"Many of our merchants recycle what can’t be re-used – there are markets for material that can be cut down into wiper cloths or recycled into felt or flocking (eg in mattress fillings). This is a low volume market for specific materials, so I’m afraid it doesn’t raise any money for us. Putting rags in a council or commercial textile bank is probably a better route."
Here's where to take your rags in Gateshead, Washington, Sunniside, Whickham & Birtley
Sometimes it's best to ask the people. So we did. Here's a list of places you can take rags in and around Gateshead according to people who live locally.
- Children’s Society at Teal Farm, Washington. Teal Farm, 3 Craggs Rd, Washington NE38 8FB
- Scope in the Galleries, Washington. The Galleries, Unit 19, South Mall, Washington NE38 7SA
- Clothes recycling bin next to Oli and Joe's Sunniside. 13 Sun Street, Sunniside, Newcastle upon Tyne NE16 5LR
- Big car park in Whickham
- Sue Ryder shop on Coatsworth Rd in Bensham. 191 Coatsworth Rd, Bensham, Gateshead NE8 1SR
- St Oswalds Whickham. 18-19 Front St, Whickham, Newcastle upon Tyne NE16 4DN
- Washingwell Primary School are collecting dark fabrics for Ukraine. Bucks Hill View, Whickham, Newcastle upon Tyne NE16 4RB
- Brysons Animal Refuge. Galloping Green Rd, Gateshead NE9 7XA
- Tulip Tree Charity, Birtley. Harraton Terrace, 24 Durham Rd, Birtley, Chester-le-Street DH3 2QG
- Charity bin at Wadham Court that takes clothing, hats, gloves and shoes to fundraise and recycle. It does not take any bedding, underwear or coats. It's next to Ryhope Infant school Academy at the bottom of Shaftesbury Avenue. 28 Wadham Ct, Ryhope, Sunderland SR2 0AP
- Box on Whitehall Road near Brighton Avenue Primary School
Check with your local charity shop
It is more convenient for you if you can just drop off your damaged clothing at your local charity shop branch. But it is always worth checking with them before you travel.
That said, this is not the only place to recycle rags. There are often clothing recycling banks at various retail parks and near local amenities like community centres. Again it is important to check these carefully as many of them do not take damaged clothing.
List of Bring Banks in Gateshead for textile recycling**
**We weren't actually sure if these bring backs are still in operation, or whether they allow for the recycling of rags. So we contacted Gateshead Council who said that YES they are still in operation. Whether or not they take rags is another matter - you'll have to check on the bring bank and let us know.
As we're based in Gateshead, we've listed some of the places where you can recycle textiles and clothing, according to Gateshead.gov.uk. You can find a similar service using your local council's website.
- Team Valley Retail World Tenth Avenue West, Team Valley, NE11 0BD
- Blaydon bring bank. The Precinct, Wesley Court , Blaydon-on-Tyne , NE21 5BT.
- Chopwell bring bank. Derwent Street , Chopwell , Gateshead, NE17 7HZ.
- Deckham bring bank. Elgin Road, Gateshead, NE9 5PA.
- Gateshead Civic Centre bring back. Regent Street, Gateshead, NE8 1HH
- Metro Centre bring bank, M&S. 93-97 Cameron Walk, Metro Centre, Gateshead, NE11 9YD, United Kingdom
- Metro Retail Park bring bank, Asda. Gibside Way, Metro Centre, Gateshead, NE11 9YA, United Kingdom
Where Else Can You Take Rags in Gateshead?
St Oswald's and Banardo's
Two main charity shops in Gateshead take rags: St Oswald's in Dunston and Barnardo's in Whickham.
Many retailers offer a buy-back scheme for old clothes but also rags. H&M have offered a recycling scheme since 2013. Any brand or condition, including damaged.
Check your local supermarket. Again lots of big supermarkets will offer clothes recycling but this might not extend to rags.
It was a pretty difficult task to track down anywhere that would take rags. If you know of anywhere that takes them, whether local to Gateshead or nationally, then drop a comment below or tag us on social media. We think it should be a lot easier to access somewhere that accepts rags. But the issue is ensuring that they go to the right place to be properly recycled.