A look behind the scenes of TextilTiger's old clothes collection

Viele Menschen fragen sich beim Aussortieren des Kleiderschranks: Was passiert eigentlich mit meinen aussortierten Klamotten? Was ist ausschlaggebend dafür, ob sie in den Secondhand- Handel gegeben, als Rohstoff recycelt oder gar verbrannt werden? All diese Fragen beantworten wir und zeigen, wie Altkleidersammlung funktioniert.

Regardless of whether you are an economical long-term wearer or a fast-paced fashionista — at some point, everyone's wardrobe is full and separation from old clothes is inevitable. But where to put the old treasures and what actually happens to them? Is there a second life for worn out pants, dresses and blouses with people who are just as happy about them as we once did? Or do they simply end up in some incinerator? We show how old clothes recycling works and what we do differently at TEXTITIGER.

Sort out clothes - this is how it goes on!

Sorting out is followed by the collection — and this is where the differences begin. The majority of the old clothes collection is carried out in street containers. These are usually spread across the city and often found in public glass containers. Operators of the collection containers are charitable institutions as well as commercial or municipal enterprises. However, old clothes can also be returned directly to textile recyclers, clothing stores of non-profit organizations or recycling centers. Some service providers and institutions also offer door collections sporadically, with the packaged clothing being picked up directly from home a few days a year.

Secondhand, recycling or incineration?

The collection is followed by sorting. At this stage, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are also working with professional recycling partners, because sorting old clothes is complex. The garments are sorted by hand into up to 350 different fractions according to quality and type. This will decide how the item of clothing will continue: Used clothes that are still wearable are given a second chance in second-hand trade or are made available to people in need at charitable institutions in clothing stores. Broken and contaminated clothing is processed in a downcycling process into recycled raw materials, for example as cleaning rags, fleece or insulation material. The cleanliness of sorted garments is decisive for the reuse or recycling potential. If textiles are too dirty, they can only be disposed of in the incinerator.

What makes TextilTiger different?

TEXTILTIGER focuses on both people and the environment when recycling old clothes. If you use our service, the worn clothes are picked up directly from home free of charge — easy and uncomplicated on demand via online booking. Consumers thus save themselves the sometimes time-consuming journey to the next container, which is also becoming less and less common in many cities such as Hamburg. Picking them up from home is particularly beneficial for all people who have limited mobility and are therefore dependent on house door gatherings, among other things. While containers are often still picked up by vehicles with internal combustion engines, TEXTITIGER relies exclusively on climate-friendly e-mobility and cargo bikes. When picked up, the clothing remains in good condition and is not affected by weather conditions or vandalism on the containers. This is because there are many cases throughout Germany in which, among other things, food is disposed of in containers, meaning that the collected old clothing no longer has to be cleaned and therefore destroyed. With collection, TEXTILTIGER is able to keep the proportion of textiles that need to be thermally recycled very low at just four percent. In comparison, the average destruction rate across Germany is just under 12 percent. Our pick-up service is therefore a convenient alternative to avoid disposing of old clothes in the event of residual waste — a path that necessarily leads to incineration and thus prevents sustainable developments in the fashion industry.

Transparency is the be-all and end-all when collecting old clothes

In fact, the old clothes industry — sometimes more, sometimes less effectively — pursues the goal of complete recycling. Unfortunately, this goal is repeatedly undermined by dubious collectors. These are aimed solely at a profitable resale of the clothes and directly destroy the garments that are not suitable for second-hand trade. Such dubious service providers appear both with containers and with front door gatherings. Church symbols are often used to simulate charitable status. Warning signals for users can include, for example, missing address information on collection slips or old clothing containers, as well as missing information about what happens with the donation of clothes. The number of old clothes far exceeds German demand. That is why almost all suppliers — including TEXTILTIGER — sell the collected textiles abroad. In 2022, this was over 462,000 tons, which were exported primarily to Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. The difference here lies in the quality of the exported goods. Most retailers only export clothing that would not actually be suitable for resale. Textiltiger, on the other hand, only sells high-quality old clothing, both within Germany and abroad. With these sales, we finance TEXTILTIGER and thus our project to make the collection of old clothes more sustainable and transparent. Together with RE TEXTIL, our partner for sorting, marketing and recycling, we focus on full transparency and want to provide insights into the entire process so that people know their old treasures are in good hands in the future as well. Admittedly, the road to a circular economy is long. However, we will master this with small and large steps.


• FTR: Der Weg der Altkleider von der Sammlung zur Wiederverwendung; https://www.bvse.de/themen/geschichte-des-textilrecycling/der-weg-der-altkleider-von-der-sammlung-zurwiederverwendung.html

• FASHIONUNITED: Im Umbruch – Alttextilmarkt vor neuen Marktsituationen; https://fashionunited.de/nachrichten/business/im-umbruch-alttextilmarkt-vor-neuen-marktsituationen/2023032750843

• RE TEXTIL: Textilrecycling: neue Rohstoffe aus bestehenden Ressourcen; https://www.re-textil.de/startseite/

• Fachverband für Textilien: Stoppt das Müll-Debakel in den Altkleidercontainern!; https://www.bvse.de/gut-informiert-textil-recycling/pressemitteilungen-textilrecycling/6386-stoppt-dasmuell-debakel-in-den-altkleidercontainern.html

• Badische Zeitung: Zweitgrößter Exporteur von Altkleidern; https://www.badische-zeitung.de/zweitgroesster-exporteur-von-altkleidern--249892222.html