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Charities welcome agreement in textiles row

Charity textiles recyclers have welcomed an agreement reached with London councils organising a joint provider contract for bring-sites.

Under the agreement charities will be able to retain their existing clothing banks when councils contract out a single textile recycler.

Lewisham Council, leading the seven-borough joint procurement, last week began procurement for a single-provider framework to provide textile recycling from bring-sites.

The process has proved controversial with charities fearing they would be squeezed out of the market, and councils accused of putting profits before people.

In May Cllr Clyde Loakes of the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWaRB) described talks with the Charity Retail Association (CRA) as “very heated” with “polarised views across parties”.

But LWaRB heard at its November meeting that agreement had been reached to work closely with charities to promote reuse and recycling through their networks.

Cristina Osoro Cangas, senior research and policy analyst at the CRA welcomed the agreement but warned the details of an agreement were not yet clear.

She said: “We welcome the aspiration set out by the London Borough of Lewisham as the lead borough for this joint contract that charity shops will continue to benefit from receiving textiles. As ever, the devil will be in the contractual detail, which will dictate whether charities will be able to compete on a level playing field with commercial companies.”

She said the association had been working with the Lewisham-led consortium and LWaRB to make clear its concerns over the possible difficulties for charity shops.

Councillor Susan Wise, cabinet member for customer services at Lewisham Council, said: “It’s very important to recognise that this new framework isn’t intended to replace the way people already choose to reuse and recycle their unwanted textiles. It’s about ensuring that all textiles are recycled and reused. Charities will continue to benefit from receiving textiles that can be resold, while there are very real social and environmental benefits to recycling textiles that can’t.”

Lewisham said the aim of the contract it is leading with the boroughs of Hounslow, Ealing, Harrow, Barnet, Sutton and Camden, were:

  • to increase tonnage diversion from landfill sites whilst maximising re-use;
  • to deliver a high quality service;
  • to expand London’s textile bring-site provision
  • to give Londoners more choice and opportunity to recycle their textiles,
  • to realise social benefits. 

The contract notice is published on the Official Journal of the European Union and Lewisham Council websites. Lewisham said any organisation that meets the contract specification, including those in the charity sector, were encouraged to express an interest.

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