You may have seen our little announcement that we can now recycle all 100% cotton textiles. This is all part of our efforts to keep garments and fabrics out of landfills for longer.
We're kicking things off by accepting used bed sheets for recycling. This means that when your sheets have reached the end of their usable life we can recycle them for you.
But before then, if your sheets are in decent condition, they may still be usable and valuable for a variety of purposes. We wanted to explore some of these to show you that there are plenty of circular, sustainable alternatives to throwing your sheets away.
Here are some of our favourite ideas as supplied by the LYB community.
There are plenty of places that would love your used sheets. Somewhere like a local shelter, charity or op-shop may be looking for donations. Especially if your set is in decent condition. Look up your closest women’s refuge, homeless shelter, or hospice shop and reach out. There’s always someone who could use a good pair of sheets.
If you’re in Wellington, another great place that may take your sheets is Sustainability Trust. They have an initiative, called the Wellington Curtain Bank, that collects curtains and large sections of fabrics. They then upcycle these into quality curtains for low-income families. They particularly like light-coloured, flat sheets for the backing of their curtains. Since it began, the Curtain Bank has given nearly 20,000 sets of curtains to over 5,000 homes. Last year alone they collected over 2,500 donations which were turned into 2,700 sets for 640 homes. We really believe in this cause, so if you have clean sheets in good condition, please consider contributing!
A lot of you also said you donate your sheets to a local SPCA centre.
The SPCA is always looking for particular items that you can donate. On that list are blankets, towels, and, of course, sheets. Alternatively, if you have a pet at home, maybe consider passing that old set directly on to them.
A popular thing to do with old sheets, tablecloths, or other large bits of fabrics, is to turn them into something new. A few of you got back to us saying you try to repurpose your sheets wherever possible.
Some of you clever people are turning your tablecloths and sheets into skirts, shirts, or other garments. We even heard some of you say that you turn your sheets into children’s clothes.
Used bed sheets also make a good material for mockups. You can use them to create a version of a more complex sewing project or to test out a new pattern without worrying about what happens if you mess up.
But it doesn’t have to be so complicated. Rather than endlessly buying cleaning cloths, you can easily turn old towels and sheets into rags or napkins. And you certainly don’t have to be precise or precious about this one!
If your sheets are made from natural fibres they could be composted.
There are a few important things to consider if you want to compost fabric.
First is just to make sure you’re not composting anything synthetic. Materials like polyester, rayon, or spandex will take hundreds of years to break down. Natural textiles like cotton, wool, silk or bamboo are able to break down much faster.
A good practice is to start by shredding your sheets into smaller bits and removing anything that won’t break down. Take out any elastic or buttons for instance, and maybe store them for another project or future repairs.
So if you have a home compost system or bokashi, consider this as an option for repurposing those worn out sheets. Just be sure to check what they’re made of first!
If your sheets aren’t suitable for one of the above options (and they’re 100% cotton) or maybe you’ve used them for a project and want to send us your offcuts you will be able to return them to us at Little Yellow Bird from April this year.
If they’re in good enough condition we will pass them on to our friends at The Sustainability Trust for their curtain bank program, otherwise they will be added to our textile recycling programme. The fabric will be shredded and stripped back down to its molecular level before being turned into a pulp ready to be fed back into the textile production chain.
Whatever you choose to do, we can work together to promote circularity and keep these valuable textiles out of our landfills.
Thank you to our community for supplying some of these ideas. It’s great to see so many of you already doing so much to keep your textiles in use. You guys are amazing.
We will be announcing other partnerships and take back programs throughout the year so watch this space for more circular solutions!