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Textile Recycling

Textiles are made out of fibres, or extended linear materials such as thread. Materials can include wool, silk, linen, alpaca, cashmere, mohair, cotton, hemp, grass, nylon, acrylic and polyester, to name just a few. Methods used in making textiles include knitting, weaving, bleaching, dying, carding, braiding, crochet, and embroidery.


Textile recycling started in Yorkshire over 200 years ago. The rag and bone man would come and collect unwanted textiles (amongst other items), and would sell them on, or reuse them for something else.

Textiles include clothing, bags, furnishings, towels, carpets, nets, rugs, and flags. 3% of textiles end up in the household rubbish.

Where can I take my textiles to be recycled?

It is quite easy to recycle your textiles. Pop your unwanted goods into a bag, and pop to your local supermarket car park (many have textile recycling banks now) before you do your food shop, or check with your local council where your nearest textile recycling bank is. Many textile recycling banks can also be found in your local amenity centre. Clothes can also be donated to charity shops. Make sure they are in reasonable condition before taking them to the shop.

How are textiles sorted and recycled?

Textiles are sorted by hand into over 100 different categories and grades. This is done with a lot of care, as many of these items will be reused again, rather than recycled. Some textiles such as cotton rags are recycled into industrial wipers for cleaning purposes. Garments in good condition will be resold. The rest will be recycled into other things such as sound insulation panels, roofing felt, and upholstery.

Further information

Check out the Association of charity shops website to find the nearest shop.

The Textile Recycling Association is the industry body for people/organisations working in this area. Check out their website here.

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