How to recycle old towels and bed linen that aren’t able to be donated. Desire a change of pattern or colour for your bed linen and towels? Or have they just have seen better days and need replacing? Either way, here’s what you can do with them to keep them out of landfill.
I was recently given some soft, fairly new bath towels by my housemate who was moving back home to Canada and couldn’t take them with her.
She’d only bought them a few months before and they felt so soft and new compared to my old, very used, ‘seen-better-days’ bath towels that I’d had for over two years.
As I had only a limited space in my cupboard to store them, I wanted to donate my old towels to make way for the new-ish ones. But, I didn’t want to just ‘throw them away’ and be done with it.
In an article by The Guardian, the lead reporter, Peter Allan, shared that ‘at the other end of the fashion cycle, roughly 260,000 tonnes, or 10kg a person, reaches landfill each year.’
That is a lot of waste, with very limited space to store it all.
So, I went about a different route.
I researched online what could be done with old bed linen and towels that were too old or used to be donated, and discovered there are a few options when it comes to recycling old textiles in Australia. Here’s what you can do with them at the end of their lifecycle.
Before we get started in learning how to recycle old towels and bed linen – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my email newsletter at the bottom of the page to keep up to date on the latest recipes, DIYs, gardening and health tips I share!!
How to Recycle Old Towels and Bed Linen
Below are a few of the ways you can recycle old towels and bed linen to prevent them being sent to landfill.
UPPAREL have created a recycling program where old textiles can be sent in to be recycled, reused or repurposed by the company. ‘For every 1kg of textiles that avoids landfill, you’ll prevent an average 3-4kg of greenhouse gases from polluting the atmosphere. Not to mention that 100% of the items that come to UPPAREL are reused, recycled or repurposed within Australia – meaning absolutely nothing is sent off-shore or to landfill.’
To recycle, simply select the size of the box you’ll be using to pack your unwanted clothing, linen, shoes, and other textiles into, and select how many boxes you’re looking to have collected. Recycling costs start from $25 AUD, which will allow you to send and recycle 10kg of textiles in one box. Their recycling rates are based on weight, so they’ll also need to know the number of packages you’ll be sending in, as each requires its own courier label for collection.
From there, you will need to pack all of your unwanted textiles into a cardboard box. They accept (almost) all textiles for reusing, repurposing, and recycling – to view a complete list of what they accept, see here. The team then sorts through all the textiles by hand, so they can only accept clean items. They ensure nothing is sent off-shore or to landfill. According to their website, ‘approximately 65% of the items we receive are in new or fit-to-wear condition.’ All items are hand-sorted and passed on to charities that they’ve partnered with, such as Save The Children, St Kilda Mums, Youth Projects, grassroots social enterprises and more. ‘The remaining 35% is either repurposed or transformed into new materials that are not only entirely recycled, but also circular in design.’
Lastly, when sending your unwanted textiles in to be recycled, you will need to book a collection or recycle them directly with one of their brand partners, who include Target, Brookes, LSKD, Macpac, Boody, Sussan, Kip&Co, Ettitude, The Oodie, Blue Illusion, and more. See their full list of brand partners and frequently asked questions page here. Simply book a collection through the link in the confirmation email sent to you after purchasing, then print and attach the generated labels to your box(es) and leave them outside for collection.
The full step-by-step guide for recycling your textiles with UPPAREL can be found here.
There is now a recycling collection point in all Sheridan boutique and outlet stores. Their program ensures old sheets and towels — of any brand — can be diverted from landfill and, instead, sent to their partnering factories to be made into recycled yarn that is repurposed into new products. Any fibres that are unable to be converted will still find a second life, one example being as insulation.
They’ve collected over 105,000kg of bed linen and towels since the program launched in 2019.
To recycle, simply return any quilt covers, sheets and towels to any Sheridan store. You can find your nearest store here. They will only accept clean items, so ensure your items are washed before sending.
From there, the items will be recycled and converted into recycled yarns which can be repurposed into new products.
As a thank you, they will gift you 5% off your next purchase. T&C’s apply*.
4. Animal Shelters
Many animal shelters and vets around Australia will gladly accept used bedding, blankets and towels. Just ensure you call ahead to see what your local vet or shelter needs. Another option is to donate these items to your nearest wildlife rescue organisation.
Charity shops will always welcome items in good condition. To make sure they are good enough for donation, follow the golden rule of only donating items that you would give to friends or family, as this will ensure they’re in good enough condition for donating. If not, don’t donate them.
If you wish to recycle old towels or bed linen, see here to find a recycler near you.
Another option is to check with your local mechanic to see if they are in need of any towels to use as rags.
Both H&M and Zara offer a collection recycling service for unwanted clothes — of any brand and in any condition — at all their Australian stores. Any clothing sent in that is in good condition is reused and sold by charities. Clothing and textiles that are in poor condition are either recycled into cleaning rags or sent to a fabric fibre recycler to create new fabrics and products such as insulation for cars and the construction industry.
The Top Brands for Eco-Friendly Bedding and Towels
The best way to overcome the issue of waste is to stop it at its source. There are so many other alternatives nowadays for better quality, eco-friendly bedding and towels. Of course, the best option is secondhand, as it means what’s already available is used first instead of making more. But if you’re looking for something new, here are the certifications to look out for when purchasing new bedding supplies:
- Certified B Corporation. This is a company that has passed B Lab’s certification process.
- The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). This is the world’s leading textile processing standard for organic fibres, including criteria for social and ecological standards, and is backed by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain. According to their website, ‘the standard covers the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labelling, trading and distribution of all textiles made from at least 70% certified organic fibres. There are two GOTS label-grades: ‘organic’ requiring a minimum of 95% organic fibres and ‘made with organic materials’ requiring at least 70% organic fibres.’
- The STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®. This is a consistent and independent testing and certification system used worldwide which tests raw, semi-finished, and finished textile products at all processing levels, as well as accessory materials used. According to the OEKO-TEX website, ‘this label certifies that every component of the product, from the fabric to the thread and accessories, has been rigorously tested against a list of up to 350 toxic chemicals.’
For sustainably-made, eco-friendly bedding and bath towel brand options, see below:
- Avocado use only the finest certified organic, natural, and non-toxic materials in their bedding and towel products. Their mission is to be ‘the most respected source’ for ‘quality organic and natural mattresses, pillows, towels, and bedding at affordable prices,’ while also ‘maintaining environmentally conscious, ethical, and sustainable business practices’ across their entire supply chain. They are a certified B Corp and Climate Neutral certified. Plus, they donate one percent of their revenues to vetted non-profits through their commitment to 1% For the Planet. All their products are organic certified by GOTS.
- Grund sells bath mats, towels, rugs, and blankets. The cotton they use is 100% GOTS certified organic, and the company is OEKO-TEX Standards and Green Business Certified. Their products are made from 100% organic material, with zero use of bleach, formaldehyde, or any other toxic substances or dyes, and the sheets are shipped without any plastic.
- Biome is a zero-waste, plastic-free store that has done all of the work for you in sourcing only the best quality products. Biome is a certified B Corporation, and any of the brands in the shop have to meet strict criteria to be sold. The criteria includes: Honesty in labelling, meeting strict standards, ensuring zero harm has come to both people and animals, only promoting brands with passion and ethics, and ensuring the whole process — from the maker to the consumer — has followed high quality standards. They have a range of organic cotton, linen, and hemp sheets and bath towels.
- SOL Organics is certified Fair Trade, Organic Cotton, and GOTS certified, and they ship completely plastic-free. Their products are shipped in a bag made from 100% organic cotton which can be composted, and the items are wrapped with 100% recycled paper and placed inside a recycled brown shipping box.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. I am not a doctor. All opinions expressed are my own personal thoughts and feelings of the products mentioned. Check with your doctor or health practitioner if you are uncertain about trying out any of the products, recipes or tips mentioned in this post.
Have you recycled bedding or towels before? How did it go? Share in the comments below.
Lots of love,