Even the Rich Are Recycling Their Clothes

Samantha Kemp-Jackson

The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, is a fan of wearing items of clothing more than once

Kate Middleton, Duchess of CambridgeBy The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London.

Secondhand clothing is the way to go


What are you wearing?

Does it make a statement? Do your clothes display a reflection of you and your personal sense of style? Did you give a second life to some perfectly good clothing by showcasing it in your own particular and unique way?

If you did, you may have contributed to the visibility and importance of recycling pre-loved clothing.

In a time when using our resources wisely has never been more important, giving well-loved clothes a second - or perhaps third - life makes sense. In an ideal world, we’d all do our part to not only highlight our unique sense of style, but also decrease the waste and incredible amounts of no-longer-worn clothing that ends up clogging our landfills.

There was a time when most of us didn’t give a second thought to throwing our no-longer-loved clothes into the garbage bin. They’d be carted off with the rest of the trash to wherever trash ended up. Did we know where this was? Likely not. Did we care? It’s questionable. If we’re honest, many of us viewed yesterday’s trash as none of our concern. Really, the attitude was that once the garbage truck took our refuse away, we were done.

Yet, just because we couldn't see where our tossed clothing went, didn't mean that it disappeared. The reality of the matter is that those old jeans that no longer fit, or that sweater that you despise, given to you by your great aunt these and similar items have to go somewhere. The question then becomes “where? and sadly, the landfill is the answer. The urgency of reusing and recycling products - from paper and plastic to clothes - is more important than it’s ever been.

According to recent studies, the impact of clothing and related textiles overflowing in landfills cannot be understated.

A New Trend?

Seeing the rich and famous doing their part to save the environment might just be the push that regular folks need to follow suit (pun intended). On a recent public appearance, Kate Middleton was lauded for wearing a dress that she had - gasp! - worn already. The fact that this event was a topic of much discussion at all indicates how much society needs to reconsider its reliance on "fast fashion," new items of clothing and having the latest, most stylish outfit. After all, if royalty can re-wear an outfit, so can everyone else.

Kate Middleton just supported a very important cause by recycling this dress

While Middleton's decision to wear a dress more than once was covered in the international press recently, this decision to do so is not the first time she led the way for other would-be-fashion-recyclers. As a matter of fact, she has been said to have re-worn certain clothing items on more than 75 occasions.

Kate Middleton's Fashion Failures, According to The List

76 times Kate Middleton has repeated her favorite outfits

One Person's Trash is Another Person's Treasure

Not only do the physical discarded items of clothes clog our landfills, but they do a number on our waterways as well. In a Patagonia-sponsored study, it was estimated that for every 100,000 people, up to 243 lbs of microfibers would be released into the local waterways each day. Shockingly, this figure is equivalent to the pollution and waste caused by approximately 15,000 plastic bags.

Textile Waste - The FactsThe Recycling Council of Ontario

The Rise of “Fast Fashion.”

“Fast Fashion” is a term that refers to a growing trend in the clothing industry. The key elements that make up the term are the very quick designing, manufacturing and selling of high volumes of clothes. Part and parcel of the trend is the reliance on quantity, not quality, with it being common knowledge that these types of garments are not particularly well-made. Sadly, the ability for certain companies to endlessly churn out runway knock-offs for the insatiable consumption of consumers, is a reality today. The COVID-19 lockdown and shuttering of many brick and mortar storefronts also added to the online shopping craze where fast fashion companies really took off.

There are many who decry the trend for reasons including the focus on consumerism and consumption, the impacts on the environment, the often poor treatment of garment workers and more. In addition, some frightening findings have shed light on the possibility of health-related and medical harm that may come from some of these items. More on this topic here:

Experts warn of high levels of chemicals in clothes by some fast-fashion retailers

Finally, in addition to the above, and the obvious issues with a burgeoning amount of textile and clothing waste, it’s just plain wrong. This is especially the case when we consider that many people in this country and beyond don’t have enough clothing, food or shelter while others are buying cheaply made items for kicks.

It’s clear that for so many reasons, recycling perfectly good clothes makes sense.

57% of all discarded clothing ends up in landfill

Share of clothing waste per year - 2017Common Objective

VIDEO: How to Thrift Shop Like a Pro

The Benefits of Giving Clothes a Second Life

Besides the obvious, there are many reasons why giving preloved clothes a second look makes sense. Here are a few.

  • Preserves energy and helps the environment – Less production of clothing – fast fashion or otherwise – slows down the negative effects on the environment
  • Helps the less fortunate – Wouldn’t it be great if everyone had enough clothes to wear and enough food to eat? Donating, sharing and recycling clothes is one easy way to make a difference
  • Eclectic and individual style – Thrift store shopping can be fun! There’s never the fear that someone will show up at a party wearing identical outfits if the clothes were bought secondhand.
  • Budget – There are savings to be had by purchasing clothes secondhand. What’s not to like?

Where to Donate and Find Gently-Used Clothing Items

There are many places to donate and to find preloved clothing. These include but are not limited to thrift shops, church sales, consignment stores, charities and shelters, to name a few. It’s easy, it helps others and it’s the right thing to do. So what are you waiting for?

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I write about Lifestyle content with a focus on Parenting, Society and Trends. I also talk about how things have changed on my podcast, "Parenting Then and Now."


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