Making money from recycling clothes

Being green does not have to hurt: how those forgotten items in your wardrobe can save you money, create jobs and help the economy.

Sceptics often characterise environmentally sound behaviour as an expensive luxury, but Britain’s recycling industry is making healthy profits.  The recycling sector now turns over more than £110 billion a year and a company in north London, the LMB Clothes Recycling Centre is an example of how profitable it can be.

LMB collects and sorts up to 200 tonnes of clothing, which it exports to Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. They now employ 270 people and contribute to an export and recycling sector that employs more than 30,000 people and earns £4 billion for the UK economy.

Britain still has some way to go. An estimated £140 million worth (around 350,000 tonnes) of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year, and according to WRAP, an organisation that aims to reduce waste in the economy,  the average UK household owns around £4,000 worth of clothes – and around 30% of clothing in wardrobes has not been worn for at least a year.

The cost of this unused clothing is around £30 billion and extending the average life of clothes by just three months of use would lead to a 5-10% reduction in each of the carbon, water and waste footprints – just one example of how individual behaviour change can have a big impact on the environment.