The council has also warned that there is “currently no market for rags”, with countries like Bangladesh where the UK usually exports its waste textiles “no longer wanting them”.
Banks across Exeter have been closed since March, with the Salvation Army unable to empty them during lockdown.
Denis the Dustcart, Exeter city council’s recycling mascot, said on his Facebook page: “Using a clothes bank as intended is acting responsibly; leaving clothes beside a bank upon finding it closed is acting irresponsibly, even where the intention in visiting the bank was otherwise.”
Denis said that, if possible, Exeter residents should donate their old clothes to charity shops.
If the clothing is unsuitable for donation, residents should either use it to make something or placed in their black bin to be sent to energy from waste (EfW), Denis said.
He added: “Everyone has a responsibility to think about the waste they produce and to not dump waste on the streets – for safety’s sake, for the environment’s sake, for the sake of not stretching public services and for the sake of actually just having a care.”
The clothes left dumped by the banks are to be sent to EfW, Denis said.
Denis also warned that the end markets for rags were drying up, with countries such as Bangladesh no longer taking the material.
“With no money to be made from rags, all we’ll be doing is lumbering charities with the disposal fees for our scrap.
“The message from the charity retail sector is this: if in doubt, ask the shop what they want before turning up with your donations.”
In May the director of the Textile Recycling Association warned gate fees could be introduced for textile banks in the UK after a slump in global demand for used clothing (see letsrecycle.com story).
Exeter has an estimated population of nearly 130,000.
According to data derived from WasteDataFlow and Defra’s statistical department, the Labour-controlled city council has a recycling rate of 27.1% in the 2018/19 financial year.