Clothing and shoes

As clothing consumption per capita continues to rise, the pressure on the environment increases as well. Cotton production in particular uses up many resources and causes pollution. Curbing consumption and textile labels and recycling clothes and shoes domestically and abroad are good for the environment.

Clothes have become relatively cheaper and are worn for a shorter period of time than they once were. This is causing the consumption per capita to rise.

Ecological assessment

Considerable quantities of energy, water, chemicals and oil are used to produce clothing. Conventional cotton production in particular requires a lot of water and involves the use of a large quantity of pesticides. By buying less clothing with a short life span, consumers make a huge contribution to reducing the strain on the environment. They can also achieve this by buying clothes and other textiles made from organic cotton.

Unused clothing and shoes can be donated or sold to second-hand clothing markets. Collecting used clothing and shoes is important because these items can reduce the production of new clothing and shoes or be used to make new products from their fabric. Tips on ecological clothing practices can be found in Pusch leaflets (see link in the right hand column).

Separate collection

Swiss residents collect approximately 6 kg of textiles per capita and year. The remaining clothing is either privately passed on or disposed of with the household waste. Other textiles are collected in addition to clothes. These textiles mostly contain complex fibre mixtures, such as carpets. Fitted carpets are collected separately because they cannot be effectively recycled at this time. Used carpets are thermally treated at municipal waste incineration plants.

Several organisations collect a wide range of used clothing and shoes. They do so mostly through roadside collection services. Appropriately packed clothing can also be placed in collection bins at convenient locations. Around 50,000 tonnes of items are collected annually.

Collected items include:

  • clean, re-wearable clothes of all kinds, including leather clothing, furs, belts, bags and underwear
  • clean, re-wearable shoes (tied together in pairs)
  • table, bed and household linens
  • feather and down bedding
  • stuffed animals

Items that are not collected include:

  • damaged and dirty textiles and clothing
  • fabric remnants and textile waste
  • mattresses, cushions, carpets, insulating materials
  • ski shoes, ice skates, in-line skates, rubber boots and odd shoes

Disposal/recycling

Collection organisations or specialised facilities sort the collected used clothes by hand. Up to two-thirds of the used clothing is still in good condition and wearable. This clothing is mostly sold abroad, particularly in Eastern Europe, Russia, Africa and the Middle East. The used clothing that cannot be worn again is used to make cleaning rags or as raw materials for recycling fibres or filler or insulating materials. Only a small proportion is waste that can be disposed of in an environmentally sound way.

Shoes are processed similarly: The facilities manually sort the collected shoes. The shoes that can still be worn are mostly sold abroad, and the rest are thermally treated.

Used clothing may be exported without a FOEN permit, provided the clothing is not overly contaminated by other wastes. Some countries have national regulations that place controls on imported used clothing. In these cases, exporters have to submit an application to the FOEN.

Financing

High-quality re-wearable clothing is particularly profitable. Profits from its sale are primarily used to cover collection and sorting costs. Surplus profits are mainly given to charities.

Further information

Contact
Last modification 03.07.2018

Top of page

https://www.bafu.admin.ch/content/bafu/en/home/topics/waste/guide-to-waste-a-z/clothing-and-shoes.html