Upcycle second hand clothing and help reducing the textile waste pile!

Maybe you already know that in The Netherlands we collect over 200 millions kilos of textile waste every year. But what you probably don't know yet, what exactly gets thrown away and what happens with all these clothes. Is there a way we as a consumer could actually help reducing that fast growing pile of textile waste in a fashionable way? Rowie & JIll took the challenge together with Milieucentraal en Sympany. On the 3rd of october Jill & Rowie from the team MUMSTER went to the Sustainable Fashion Event organised by Milieucentraal and Sympany. Their goal? Creating cool vintage looks in different styles by upcycling second hand clothing from the textile waste pile. How exciting! 


They started the day at Sympany in Utrecht. Sympany is a Dutch social enterprise and textile collecting company with a mission to contribute to a more sustainable world. Sympany ensures that your goods end up well “and that your well doing multiplies and offers opportunities for someone else”.

They collect clothes in a large part of the Dutch municipalities with more than 2,400 textile containers and door-to-door collection campaigns, to realize their projects. Sympany collects 24 million kilos (!!) of textiles a year, of which unfortunately 12% consists of household waste.

In addition, Sympany does fundraising through institutional applications and crowdfunding. With the proceeds from these activities, Sympany finances projects in Angola, Malawi, DR Congo, Ethiopia and India


So, what happens with your textiles when you donate it in one of the Sympany containers?



1. First all the containers are emptied and the textiles will be transported with a truck to one of their sorting centers.


Fact: 7 ton kilos of textiles fit in one truck, there are coming 4 trucks a day at each sorter center, 5 days a week.


2. In the sorting centers it will be sorted.

(among others, by people with a distance to the labor market)



3. The textiles will be sorted in: 1. re-wearable clothing that will be sold in Europe and Africa

                                                   2. non-wearable clothing goes to recycling



(These clothes will all be sold)



You might be wondering, can you throw away all sorts of textiles in the containers?

All your textile goods are allowed to be thrown in the containers. (worn) Clothes, shoes, sheets and blankets, bags and accessories, patches, curtains, caps and hats, household textiles and also your plush teddy bears. Do make sure to keep the textiles dry and clean, so put them in a plastic or canvas bag!

Next up it was our turn to have a look at the second hand clothing that comes in at Sympany. As we walked into the next location, a hall, we got handed a drink. At one end there were racks filled with clothes, at the other side there were fitting rooms and mirrors. Between these two ends there were three sewers, three stylists and a bar spread over the space. It wasn’t long until we had to put down our drinks and were put to work. Our task was to look into the clothes and to find the gems in-between them.


The trick for us was to look through the damages, the wrong sizes or the ugliness of a clothing item and more so to see the opportunities within these pieces.




Where trousers were too big, the sewers didn’t take longer than five minutes to get them to the right size. Where sweaters had strange looking stains the stylist didn’t hesitate to cut the sweater in half and combine it with a shirt to give it a totally different look. Sometimes it didn’t take more than a gold pin or a flowery shawl to spice up a greyish looking item.

While we all were taking our own take on these clothes it was very inspiring to see how everyone had different ideas and wishes for their clothing items.


Every small change showed a number of possibilities.


This day Milieucentraal, the stylists; Selina Martin, Sanne Mus, Yolande Avé and the sewers from Wawollie gave us insight to what happens to clothing after you throw it into a textile container and gave us the consciousness to perhaps sometimes reflect on what you really need and where this can be found. Because with a little effort the oldest piece of clothing could be your newest favorite.


Pictures by @Jimheroes and @pieterfotografie





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