Sustainable fashion: how to turn your unwanted gems into someone else’s charity shop finds | Give up to give back


Lockdown gave many of us the time to have a good old-fashioned clear-out.
Photograph: Jovo Jovanovic/Stocksy United

The UK sustainable fashion movement is having a moment. Consumers were expressing a desire for more ethical and less wasteful fashion choices even before the pandemic, but Covid-19 seems to have crystallised this feeling.

A survey conducted in April by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) asked people how the pandemic had influenced their opinions on the fashion industry. It found that 50% feel the industry should do whatever it takes to become more environmentally sustainable, and 68% intend to make long-term changes to their purchasing habits, including buying more secondhand items.

As well as giving us the chance to reflect on our buying habits, lockdown gave many of us the time to have a good old-fashioned clear-out – two in five people across the country, in fact. “Because everybody’s at home we had this opportunity to just sort things out,” says mum of three Eliza Lau-Johnston. “The issue over lockdown though was, what do you do with the clothes you’ve cleared out [because charity shops were closed]?”

With most charity shops now open but some only accepting donations at certain times of the day, or operating with reduced hours, things may not be as straightforward as they used to be.

Luckily, a long-standing initiative by Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People and TK Maxx gives consumers more opportunity to divert clothes from landfill and to find a home for those once-loved treasures that no longer spark joy. With the Give up Clothes for Good campaign, preloved quality clothing, homeware and accessories can be dropped off at any TK Maxx store in the country. The items are then sold in Cancer Research UK shops and the money raised is used to support life-saving research for children and young people affected by cancer.

Covid-19 has been a challenging time for charities, and Cancer Research UK’s shops were closed for months meaning vital funds have been lost. But cancer never stops. About 1,900 children and young people are still diagnosed with the disease every year in the UK – that’s around five a day. Now Cancer Research UK shops have reopened, every donation matters more than ever.

TK Maxx has put careful measures in place such as protective equipment, social distancing, and enhanced cleaning and sanitisation. Just ask, and associates will direct you to where to put your donations in store so they can be safely collected for Cancer Research UK.

With the Give up Clothes for Good campaign, preloved quality clothing, homeware and accessories can be dropped off at any TK Maxx store

Although donating items to support charities is a well-established practice in the UK, a recent survey by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) found that there is still a proportion of people who aren’t putting their preloved garments to good use. It discovered that 14% of people planned to put unwanted clothing in the bin.

Lau-Johnston, who runs sustainable fashion styling events in Hertfordshire, can regularly be found rummaging through the charity shops of St Albans. She feels strongly that donating clothing is the right thing to do. “Whereas my husband might be like: ‘Oh let’s just throw it away’, I think why throw something away when somebody else could use it?”

And, of course in these challenging times, a donation not only means potentially a new happy owner for the clothing you’ve fallen out of love with, but the chance to help causes such as Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People get back on track in raising funds for important research.

TK Maxx has been a long-standing supporter of Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People, with customers and associates having raised more than £37m since 2004. One of the research centres this money funds is The Children’s Brain Tumour Centre of Excellence, based at the University of Cambridge and the Institute for Cancer Research in London. Brain tumours are the most common cause of cancer-related death in children, and thus the centre, launched by Cancer Research UK in 2018, is focusing on developing a pipeline for curative treatments. Each bag you donate could raise up to £25 to help fund this vital work. What’s more, TK Maxx also donates any stock that isn’t sold to support the research into cancers affecting children and young people.

If that hasn’t already motivated you, a donation also means supporting a more sustainable fashion world. Over 1.7m bags of clothes, accessories and homewares have already been donated, which equates to more than 8,500 tonnes of textiles diverted from landfill.

Time to get sorting.

You can support Give Up Clothes For Good by donating your preloved quality clothes, accessories and homeware at any TK Maxx store, all year round. Find out more at

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