You should definitely avoid these containers

Stuff the sorted out clothes in bags and throw them into the first used clothes container? Better not. If you want to help those in need with your donation, you should look carefully at disposal.

According to the Federal Association of Secondary Raw Materials and Disposal (bvse), around 1.3 million tons of textiles (most recent figures from 2018) are sorted out in Germany every year. Often the used clothes end up in collection containers. But many collection points are dubious: the dealers sell the textiles and put the money in their own pockets.

How can consumers identify reputable disposal stations? To make sure that the clothes get to those in need, you should first move away from containers on which neither the name nor the address of the collector can be found.

Be careful with collecting containers in front of the door

If only a phone number is given, a quick phone call can provide clarity. The consumer center in Hamburg warns that the numbers are often not assigned or that callers there can only reach a mailbox. Then it would be better not to use the containers. Skepticism is also required if collection bins suddenly appear in front of the door that are advertised with particularly emotional appeals for donations.

According to the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), used clothing collections in which baskets are placed on the street or which draw attention to themselves via flyers are mostly illegal. This also applies if no verifiable information about the collector is known.

The best way to do this is to find out about the organization you plan to donate your clothes to. Look on the Internet to see how she uses the clothes and what profits are used for. Serious providers provide information on this.

These three collection points are reputable

The consumer association classifies collections as serious and secure with one of the following three seals:

Siegel/Label Name Guidelines
Label from fair evaluation FairW Bewertung is an umbrella organization of around 130 non-profit organizations. They have committed to complying with socially and environmentally compatible standards. This includes, for example, that the organization is non-profit and does not pursue any commercial goals with its work, that income from the sale is used directly and indirectly for social, diaconal or charitable purposes and that truthful information about the purpose and use of the clothing collection is given.

Seal of the German Central Institute for Social Issues (DZI) The DZI donation seal proves that an organization handles the funds entrusted to it carefully and responsibly. Organizations that bear this seal have committed themselves to work transparently, to operate economically and to provide factual and truthful information. There are corresponding control and supervisory structures.
bvse quality seal for old textiles collection from the Federal Association of Secondary Raw Materials and Disposal The member companies have undertaken to ensure transparency in collection, traceable recycling routes and protection of the environment. As far as possible, the garments handed in are reused as second-hand clothing. Clothing that is no longer wearable is reportedly recycled to a high quality. Companies that bear the seal are regularly checked by an external and independent expert.

The respective symbol can be found on the clothing containers or on the homepage of the associated organization. But even if the symbol of the local waste authority can be found on the container, you can throw your clothes in with a clear conscience.

Used clothes container: This is allowed in

Anyone who knows where to find a municipal or charitable non-profit container for old clothes can pack their bags. But not everything is suitable for disposal. FairWeval, for example, emphasizes that only well-preserved, clean and packaged textiles can be put into the collection.

In addition to normal clothing, they are also allowed

  • Towels,
  • Hats and scarves,
  • Bed and table linen,
  • Blankets and pillows,
  • Curtains,
  • Belt,
  • Bags
  • and even plush toys.

Shoes should always be tied together. Often there is even a separate container for shoes next to the used clothes container. It is important that the textiles are not thrown loosely into the collection container, but rather packed in bags.

On the other hand, worn underwear, holey socks and tattered clothing are just as unsuitable for recycling as wet or soiled textiles. Even clearly worn shoes, individual shoes or rubber boots have no place in the collection boxes. In these cases the residual waste bin is the right choice.

If containers are overfilled, you should take your discarded clothes back home and throw them in at a later date. Do not place any garment bags next to the containers. “Otherwise the old clothes get dirty, get wet and are consequently unusable for further use. After that, they can only be incinerated”, explains the bvse.

What happens to the old clothes?

  (Source: bvse) (Source: bvse)

And what happens to the old textiles? Some of the pieces are used for social purposes. However, since the clothes collected often exceed local needs, the surplus is sold to commercial textile recyclers at home and abroad. The proceeds are used to support social projects.

Inferior quality textiles are used to manufacture cleaning rags and recycling material. The rest goes to waste disposal.

Alternatives to the container: flea market, clothing store and Co.

In addition to containers, flea markets, swap sites, online platforms (ebay classified ads, clothing circles and the like) and second-hand shops also offer opportunities to pass on sorted, but still usable clothing. Church organizations also often operate so-called clothing stores. There, those in need can equip themselves with clothing for free or for a small fee. Clothing donations can also be made in social department stores or in Oxfam stores. With the latter, the proceeds are put into the development work of the organization. Another option is to send rejected clothing as a package to the Deutsche Kleiderstiftung free of charge.

In addition, some clothing stores such as H&M, Monki or & Other Stories also accept old clothes – even broken ones. Some of the items of clothing handed in there are sold as second-hand goods. Another part is used for upcycling; the textiles are used to make cleaning rags, for example, or they are used as insulation in the car industry. Another part is used for energy generation.

In order to prevent large amounts of old clothes from accumulating in the first place, the consumer advice center recommends that you focus on quality when buying clothes. This not only protects the environment, it also saves money in the long term.