Sustainable Sport: Reusing or Recycling Sports Gear

Whether you’re a fitness freak, gym bunny or lapsed athlete, chances are you’ll have some redundant active wear, outdoor clothes or sports equipment gathering dust in a corner. If that’s the case, then this post is for you! We’ve pulled together various companies and organisations which reuse or recycle sports clothes and equipment, saving them from landfill. Great news, as most sports shoes and active wear contain plastic and will take hundreds, possibly thousands of years to break down in landfill.

With reports that charity shops are being overwhelmed with donations after lockdown clear-outs, they will not necessarily welcome your old sports gear – there is a good chance it could end up in landfill via the charity shop. By all means, phone your local charity shop to see if they want your stuff. If not, the alternatives listed here offer more sustainable options for disposing of unwanted sports clothes and equipment.

Running Shoes and Clothing

A community interest company, ReRun aims to reduce waste in the running community, prolong the life of running clothes and equipment and save them from landfill. ReRun accept donations of running clothes and equipment, which are then sold online (very reasonably too!) or donated to homeless and refugee projects. The ReRun website is a great place to source second-hand sportswear (not just running shoes) and also has details of how you can donate your unwanted gear, either at a collection point or via post.

Swim Hats and Goggles

Sea & Stream is an online retailer selling sustainably sourced products for outdoor swimmers. Their website is well worth a browse, even if you’re not a swimmer as they also sell things like organic towels and blankets, gifts and art, toiletries and litter picking tools. Sea & Stream also accept donations of unwanted swim hats and goggles to save them from landfill. Good condition items are sent to a charity called SwimTayka which provides free swimming lessons or to Cool Bathing, a swim hat maker, which uses the hats for creative projects. Any hats or goggles which cannot be reused or repurposed are recycled with a specialist recycling service. What’s more, if you donate your old swim hats or goggles to Sea & Stream, you’ll receive a 10% off voucher to use in their online shop!

Wetsuits

Continuing on a water-based theme, ethical clothing brand Inland Sea have recently launched a wetsuit upcycling scheme together with Dirtbags Climbing (more on Dirtbags in just a minute). The scheme will run for the whole of the summer, with Inland Sea accepting wetsuit donations by post or at participating surf shops. The wetsuits will be upcycled into new products such as yoga mats, laptop and phone cases, changing mats and camping mats.

Climbing Gear, Rucksacks etc.

Speaking of Dirtbags Climbing, this Lake District based company upcycles old climbing gear and outdoor equipment into new products for climbers and outdoor enthusiasts such as chalk bags, running belts, and bouldering pads. Dirtbags will accept donations of climbing rope, tents, rucksacks and other bags, coats and jackets, harnesses, other climbing gear (nuts/cams/biners), as well as unwanted, clean fabrics.

Outdoor Gear, Sleeping Bags etc.

Another great outdoor and bike brand is Alpkit, which has an online shop and stores in selected locations in Wales, Scotland and the North of England. We love Alpkit’s ethos, which is that continuing to use your existing gear is the most environmentally friendly thing to do. For this reason, Alpkit provide a repairs service for any brand of product. On top of this, Alpkit have launched the Continuum Project with two simple aims: to reduce the amount of clothing going to landfill and to provide warm clothing to those in need. Alpkit accept donations at their stores or by post of outdoor clothing (outer layers, insulation layers, mid layers, base layer tops), sleeping bags and mats, walking poles, tents, rucksacks, pots and pans, bikes, bike parts and accessories (no helmets), and cycle clothing. Donations will be either passed to those in need via partner charities, upcycled or recycled. Alpkit guarantee that donations won’t end up in landfill!

Football Kit

Kits4Causes is a non-profit organisation which donates unwanted football kit and equipment to social development projects around the world. Kits4Causes will accept donations of football shirts, shorts, socks, boots, bibs, and accessories such as shin pads. Donations can be made for free via DHL service points and any items not suitable for reuse will be recycled.  Full details of how to donate are available on their website.

Cricket, Rugby and Other Sports Gear

The Lord’s Taverners is a youth cricket and sports disability charity which operates a sports kit recycling programme to help disadvantaged young people in the UK and abroad access sports equipment. They accept donations of usable cricket, rugby and football equipment, clothing and shoes, tennis balls, cones, bins, and general sports clothing and shoes. Donations can be made via collection points (currently closed) or post.

While researching this post, we thought of a few common sports items which cannot yet be recycled here in the UK. These include cycle helmets and yoga mats. If you happen to have an excess of old cycle helmets, apparently the emergency services will sometimes take them for use in training exercises. Alternatively, cycle helmets can be upcycled into hanging baskets! As for yoga mats, I’m pretty sure my yoga mat must be nearly 15 years old and is still going strong. But if you have one that is no longer fit for purpose, upcycling ideas for yoga mats include cutting it up to make smaller mats for outdoor seating, using it to line the boot of your car, or as non-slip backing for rugs.

Hopefully this post has given you some useful alternatives to charity shops or the rubbish bin for your unwanted or redundant sports gear. Get in touch with us if you know of any other places that take donations of second-hand sports clothes or equipment, or if you have any good upcycling tips!

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