Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

So what does textile re-use mean?

Textile reuse is when you buy an item of clothing from a charity shop, second hand/vintage shop, or swap clothes with your friends instead of buying a new item. New clothes are comparatively very cheap and are often imported from low wage economies in Asia and eastern Europe. These clothes are designed to be worn a few times and to be replaced in a few weeks/months. 

Textile reuse is the largest re-use activity in Ireland. Charity shops are the main drivers of this re-use activity and have been operating in this space for over 25 years.

Statistics on reuse through charity shops

  • Our charity members operate over 450 shops representing 39 charities nationwide
  • Each shop handles an average of 51 tons of textiles per year
  • Total 23,000 tons per year for all our members
  • Of this total 12,000 tons are reused through sale in our shops
  • A further 7,500 tons sold to textile merchants will be re-used
  • The remaining 3,500 tons will be used for industrial wipes, processed as shoddy (yarn made from recycled fabric) which is used to make new textile products or reprocessed by the flocking industry for insulation in cars, roof felt or furniture padding.

Please note that these are estimated figures.

Donating through a charity shop

If you donate directly to commercial textile recyclers through clothing banks then the textiles and their value is exported. They are not available to the Irish general public for re-use. Equally the Irish charity sector, who fund services in your community, does not benefit from the potential income.

To give a specific example:

  • A 10 kg bag of clothes suitable for re-use will generate €35 to €50 for a charity and provide good quality clothes at affordable prices for people who have limited disposable income.
  • The same 10kg bag given to a commercial textile merchant through a bring bank or cash for clothes operation will generate €3/€4. The textile merchant will benefit from the true value of the clothes.

Benefits of textile reuse and recycling by ICSA members

Environmental benefits

  • Textiles, books, furniture and household items are reused and given another lease of life. Most of this is diverted from landfill
  • Reduced carbon emissions
  • Reduced need for new goods

Economic benefits

  • Money raised through charity shops goes to fund essential services across a range of areas in our communities around the country. The funding produced through charity shops enables charities to provide services and support for some of the most marginalised people in society.
  • A breakdown of the sectors and activities of our 41 ICSA member charities can be found on Who we are
  • Creating employment – ICSA members employ over 500 people in their charity shop operations

 Social benefits

  • Providing essential clothing to people who, for whatever reason, cannot afford to shop in mainstream retailers. They can buy a better brand or quality in the charity shop than they could afford new.
  • Creating social employment for about 1,500 people though CE and TUS schemes
  • Reskilling, upskilling and training opportunities
  • The inclusive nature of volunteering i.e. marginalised sectors of the community are given an opportunity to challenge and develop themselves.
  • Significant benefit to the wider community through a strong volunteering spirit, something charity shops play a huge part in. Over 5,500 people nationwide volunteer in our charity shops.


New words and concepts

The three R's, Reduce Reuse Recycle, have been around for a while, encouraging us to reduce the amount we consume, reuse what we can and recycle what we can't. New words have entered the frame now - repurpose, upcycle,resource efficiency. These are all part of the circular economy.

But what is the circular economy?

The Circular Economy concept aims to maintain the value of products, materials and resources within the economy for as long as possible, and to minimise the generation of waste. 

This means that we reduce, reuse, and recycle what we take and make, avoiding depleting more of our resources, replacing the linear “take, make, dispose” model.

For more information please click on 
Closing the loop - An EU action plan for the Circular Economy

Circular Economy in detail