Conscious cleanup: Upcycle your old clothes into toys, jewellery and more. Here’s how

Have too many clothes you don’t wear? Give them a second lease of life this festive season by sending them to upcycling organisations

September 22, 2022 12:04 pm | Updated 04:39 pm IST

A creation by Oh Scrap! Madras

A creation by Oh Scrap! Madras | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Did you know that every year, over 1 million tonnes of textiles — a majority coming from households — are thrown away in India? So, as you begin prepping for the festive season ahead and take a deep dive into clearing up your wardrobe to make way for new clothes, perhaps it is time to opt for a sustainable approach this year. And, we are here to help. Featured below are organisations across the country that accept fabric and apparel donations, and upcycle them to create everything from toys and pet beds to paper weights and jewellery.

Artisans at Clothes Box Foundation

Artisans at Clothes Box Foundation | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Clothes Box Foundation, Gurgaon

This year, the organisation is not just running multiple collection programmes with brands such as American Eagle, but there is focus on selling their upcycled products too. Barring innerwear, they accept used wearables from laymen and industrial surplus fabric from the textile industry. “It can be any material, and we accept all sizes,” says Sajan Veerr Abrol, founder and managing trustee. Once the clothes reach them, they are sorted into the ‘fit to be distributed’ and ‘to be recycled’ categories. “The ratio is approximately 70:30. The ones in good condition are donated among the underprivileged, while the worn and torn ones are directed into our in-house recycling facility, Refresh,” adds Sajan. The organisation employs marginalised women to recycle these discarded clothes into blankets, bags, pet beds, cushions, potlis, laptop bags, etc., and trains them in industrial stitching too. 

Collection details: For drop offs at their Gurugram centre (Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm), WhatsApp 7838371356. Home pickup by a third-party vendor is available across India on

The collection facility at Wasted

The collection facility at Wasted | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Wasted, Chennai and Bengaluru

All kinds of fabric waste including clothes that are no longer useful, tailoring scraps, torn or stained clothes, bedsheets, curtains etc. are accepted here. “We even accept socks and undergarments in any condition given that they are packed separately from other fabrics,” says founder Ann Anra, adding, “We always encourage people to donate clothes in their own circles or to the needy. If they are unable to do so, they are welcome to drop it off with us.”

With a number of collection drives planned for the festive season, Wasted also has a primary drop off centre in T Nagar and branches in Palavakkam, Kotturpuram, and Kottivakkam. Depending on the condition and type of clothing, they are either donated (to NGOs like Karunai Ullangal and Arpanam Trust), sold for a nominal price to communities that cannot afford to buy clothes and sold at reduced prices to people who are eco-conscious. Torn and stained fabrics are sent for recycling/downcycling.

Wasted’s thrift store

Wasted’s thrift store | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

”Some fabrics are donated to local businesses that transform them into items of utility, and other unsalvageable fabrics get sent to informal/formal waste aggregators, and downcycled to mop heads, door mats, and stuffing for pillows/mattresses,” says Ann, adding that as a policy, the team does not resell baby and kids clothes. “We also help women generate income by giving them stock for free that they can sell within their communities,” she concludes.

Collection details: Call 9751755522 for Chennai, and 9376776795 for Bengaluru

Oh Scrap!, Chennai

Founded by Priyanjoli Basu and Dominique Lopez, Oh Scrap! upcycles fabric scrap from garment exporters and tailoring units to craft everything from wine bottle holders and buntings to hair accessories and toys. “We take on fabric, home linen, saris, dupattas, and denim — they can be used, torn or stained. But we don’t accept winter clothes, innerwear, swimwear, socks, shoes and bags,” says Dominique.

A creation by Oh Scrap! Madras

A creation by Oh Scrap! Madras | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Once handed over to the team, the items are either donated to a local NGO, recycled, upcycled or eventually thrifted. “We segregate them based on their condition, wash, and then redistribute to our partners for donation/recycling), or use for our own propose of thrifting, upcycling,” she says, adding that two-thirds of their tailoring team comprises women, and all tailors work from home.

Collection details: Email or call 8925519960

MITU, Bengaluru

At MITU, unstitched products such as saris, dhotis, dupattas, and curtains are converted to bags with minimum wastage. “Various types of bags ranging from return gift/ tambula bags to clutches and tote bags are made by a team of tailors, mostly women working at our office as well as from their homes,” says founder Kala Charlu.

Fabric toys at MITU

Fabric toys at MITU | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Collection details: Donations can be dropped off at their office in Malleswaram. If the quantity is large enough, a pickup can be organised from donors within a three-kilometre radius. Call 7847086668, 9740031720.

Small, Kerala

When Deepa Pradeep — who runs a Facebook page, Small, to retail her handcrafted home decor products — was approached by clients to craft something out of fabric they did not want to discard, her upcycling initiative was born. “We upcycle bed sheets, saris, and denim, brought by our clients or our tailor scrap/surplus fabric to craft curtains, shopping or sling bags, cushion covers, table runners, coasters, wall hangings, fabric jewellery, diaries, and more,” says Deepa.

Collection details: Due to space constraints Deepa does not accept bulk drop offs, but you can reach out to Small for personalised and custom upcycled products. SMALL on Facebook.

A wall hanging by Deepa Pradeep

A wall hanging by Deepa Pradeep | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Twirl, Kolkata

You can donate anything made of fabric — clothing, bedsheets, curtains — as long it’s not torn or completely discoloured. “All material is segregated, cleaned, processed and then upcycled as per requirement,” says founder Sujata Chatterjee, adding that Twirl is an all-girls team, with the entire process done by women from rural backgrounds. The women craft bags, aprons, dog toys, fabric paper weights, cushions, desk organisers, among other accessories. “We also design custom products for organisations and corporate gifting,” adds Sujata, who distributes 40% of their donations to rural communities in the city’s far-flung villages and slums.

Collection details: Home pick-ups can be organised in Kolkata, and drop points are available in multiple locations too. Donations are accepted from other cities too. For details, WhatsApp 9007428062.

A creation by Twirl

A creation by Twirl | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Rimagined, Bengaluru

Known for their work with innovative materials such as tyre tubes, wood, and glass, Rimagined also turns fabric waste into utility products. Founder Shailaja Rangarajan says the organisation collects apparel, cotton and synthetic saris, surplus fabric from stitched garments, bedsheets, cotton curtains, and denim.

Storage baskets crafted at Rimagined

Storage baskets crafted at Rimagined | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“Once the fabric waste reaches us, it goes through a round of sorting. We assess the condition of the fabric, and if it is too faded or stained, we usually can’t upcycle it so it gets routed to dry waste centers. The fabric that we can use goes through a thorough round of wash and then gets upcycled,” she says, adding that the products made include fabric rope baskets, trays, personalised quilts, bags and pouches. If the team receives clothes in good condition, they donate them rather than taking the upcycling route. 

Collection details: If you are located in Bengaluru, you can send your fabrics to their local centre. For other cities, you can route it to their main center in Kolkata. For details, call 9741977556

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