Should you recycle your old clothes? This is a question which is harder to answer than one might expect, and not as obvious as it may be for aluminum cans and other more valuable recyclates.
While there is a thriving global trade in the reuse of garments, used textiles are hard to recycle because of their complex structures and many ingredients - you cannot easily dissolve them or melt them down. As with all recycling, there are emissions associated with collecting and processing recyclable materials.
But a recent review of life cycle assessments of textile recycling by Sandin and Peters (2018) suggests there is increased interest in finding ways around the technical challenges and in identifying the environmental issues and benefits. From an LCA analyst's point of view, the biggest issue identified in the review is the problem of knowing how much production is avoided by recycling, because this is where the biggest potential benefits lie.
Overall though, the results suggest recycling clothing will be a good thing.
Click here to access the full study.