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Clothing collections :
Leaflets, bags and labels

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Clothes collection leaflet - example
A clothing collection leaflet

Note - This page deals only with the physical aspects of leaflets and bags - in other words their size, shape, materials etc.

Please see other pages for comments on the wording and illustrations printed on them.  For example see the Definitions page.


Recently we donned our anoraks and looked at our collections of leaflets and bags, compiling the statistics below.

The information below covers all types of collections - irrespective of whether they're genuine, misleading or bogus.

Items delivered

We've put the items under the following headings :

  1. Leaflets
  2. Bags
  3. Bag envelopes
  4. Labels

Clothes collection leaflet (flyer) - Just Help Foundation (charity)
Collection leaflet from
'Just Help Foundation' (charity)

1. Leaflets

Collection leaflets are also known as 'flyers'.

2. Bags

Size - Almost all the bags were standard-sized dustbin/refuse bags (typically 600mm x 900mm, ie 2' x 3', with a volume of around 70 litres).

Hexagon of different colours

Colour - A few bags were black, but most were white or coloured.
Most were opaque, but a few were translucent (eg 'Helping Arms').  We've never seen transparent ones used.

Plain or printed - About 50% of them were plain.  The rest were printed (usually in only one colour) - with information about the collector, the collection and/or the good cause.

Printed bags are much preferable - it's then clear who supplied them and who they're intended for (once filled with donations).  In some cases collectors have persuaded the police to prosecute thieves who have stolen filled bags.  With this in mind, increasingly collectors (eg Clothes Aid) are including wording on the bag such as :

"This bag and its contents are the property of xxxxxx charity"

See the page on Thefts of collection bags.

On average, around 15% of clothing collections take place on the same day that the local council empties your bins.  So printed bags reduce the chance of the council taking the clothing bags in error (thinking that they're waste).

Recycling symbol for HDPE polytheneRecycling symbol for LDPE polythene

Materials used - All were polythene (the full name is 'polyethylene', abbreviated to 'PE').  There were examples of both types :

Plastic is a good choice - it's waterproof and strong, so it protects the donated goods in all weathers while they're in the street awaiting collection, and when handled by the collectors and transported.

Plus icon Minus icon

Many of the bags had breathing-holes.  These are a mixed blessing :

3. Bag envelopes

Front of a clothing collection bag-envelope delivered 2009 (unlicensed)
Above: front of a clothing collection bag-envelope delivered 2009 (unlicensed)

These days, many collectors put each clothes bag (folded) in a small outer plastic bag (called an envelope or sleeve).  Usually the envelope is then sealed.  We call this a bag kit.  This method is used partly because of safety concerns - it reduces the danger of suffocation for children and pets.

Most of our envelopes were around 240mm x 105mm size (about 9" x 4"). 
All were printed in landscape (horizontal) format. 
Several included a photograph (black and white). 
All were made of polythene.

4. Self-adhesive labels

These are an interesting alternative to leaflets.  They're self-adhesive - you peel off the backing sheet, and stick them on a bag.  The person donating provides their own bag - and sticks the supplied label on it.  Labels cost more than leaflets.  However, they're easier for the donator.  (With a leaflet you have to improvise when fixing it on - eg using Sellotape™ or string.)  Because they're easier, collectors tend to get a higher donation-rate, so the extra cost may be recouped.

See the A-Z selection of collectors page for photographs of clothing collection labels used in Ireland.

Types of delivery

We've come across four types of deliveries by collectors :

a.  Leaflet-only - The cheapest option.  However, fewer donations result from this method as the recipient has to provide their own bag, and (optionally) fix the leaflet to it.

b.  Leaflet and bag - Usually they're rolled up with a rubber band around them.  This method is less popular these days (eg because of the risk of suffocation - see above).

c.  Bag kit - Comprises (1) a large clothes-bag, plus (2) a small outer plastic 'envelope', sealed.  This method is increasingly popular.  Originally only reputable collections used this method (eg Age UK, Scope, Clothes Aid).  However, nowadays an increasing number of misleading collections are using this method too.

d.  Self-adhesive label - Rare in Britain.  More common in Ireland.

Quantity and cost of leaflets and bags

Coins (courtesy of freeimages.co.uk)

See the Statistics page for figures - such as :

Environmental aspects

See the Statistics page for figures - eg estimates of the number of clothing-collection leaflets and bags delivered to homes in the UK each year, and how many tonnes of plastic are used.

On the face of it, the most environmentally-friendly method is leaflet-only.  Then the only bags used are those provided by the homes which are donating clothes - which is a small percentage(see the page on collecting the bags for details).  Furthermore, paper leaflets are more 'green' than plastic bags.

However, in practice more people donate clothes when there's a bag provided.  So the issue isn't clear-cut.

Recycling symbol

Recycling of bags - Note that recycling them only saves the materials, not the energy used to produce them.  See the Re-use and recycling page.

Collection bags are made of the same materials as shop carrier bags (polythene).  So, they can be recycled at any supermarket which has carrier-bag recycling facilities.

Biodegradable collection bags are becoming more common.

Related pages