Pile of clothes.

Australians throw out nearly one million tons of clothes every year!

Image: ©

The average Australian throws out about 23 kilograms of clothes each year. Most of that rubbish goes straight to the tip, and it can take hundreds of years for those old clothes to completely break down. Even worse, as they break down, old clothes release greenhouse gases!

Old clothes can’t be recycled in our home bins, but there are ways we can reuse them to make our wardrobes more sustainable. Our Sustainability Squad members, Isabelle and Toby, can show us how.

New homes for old clothes

Young girl standing in front of clothes recycling bin, making a thumbs up sign.

Isabelle showing us where she recycles her old clothes and toys

Isabelle from the Double Helix Sustainability Squad donates her old clothes and toys at her local clothing recycling box. You can join Isabelle by researching your nearest collection point and donate your clothes to others in need. Alternatively, check out your local op shop and donate there to give your clothes a second life.

“When we reuse and recycle different materials, we reduce the consumption of valuable resources like water and electricity used to manufacture these products.” Isabelle says.

New uses for old clothes

Tote bag made from an old t-shirt.

Make your own t-shirt tote bag!

Another Double Helix Sustainability Squad member, Toby, helped his school community to turn old clothes into something useful.

“We held a Making Day where students were asked to bring in old t-shirts,” says Toby. “And we would help and teach them how to create that old t-shirt into a reusable and recyclable bag. We would collect their attendance and for each t-shirt that would be successfully saved from landfill we would award their house with one house point.”

Double Helix has an activity on creating t-shirt tote bags here.

New ways to think about clothes

There are other ways to save clothes from landfill. Next time you go shopping, ask yourself:

  • Do you already have something similar at home? How many times will you wear or use this?
  • Should you really buy something just because it’s on sale? You might save 30% buying on sale, but you spend 100% less if you don’t buy it at all!
  • Can you do a clothes swap with a friend? You might find some surprises in each other’s wardrobes!
  • If something has become too small, can you give it to a younger friend or neighbour? It’s a fun way to help others and you still get to see those clothes around!

Can you think of other ways to remake, reuse, and recycle clothes? Let us know in the comments!

You can learn more about Isabelle and Toby’s ideas for sustainability in Double Helix Issues 62 and 63.

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