Clothing retailers commitment to a new target to reduce waste sent to landfill by 15% is an opportunity for the textiles recycling sector, according to WRAP’s programme head.
Tesco, John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Next and Sainsbury’s are among 53 retailers, charities, suppliers and recyclers in the clothing sector that have committed to cutting their environmental impacts by 15%.
This is under the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) targets for 2020, which include reducing waste arisings per tonne of clothing by 3.5%.
David Moon, head of products and services at WRAP, which leads the commitment, told MRW there will be a “greater supply of materials for reuse and recycling”.
He said 31% of clothing is sent to landfill currently, but a 15% reduction from this would create an extra 50,000 tonnes of clothing for reuse and recycling.
He said WRAP expects an overall increase in clothing consumption due to population growth.
Recent reports from the textile recycling industry suggest unstable and weak currencies abroad have resulted in pile-ups of clothing at UK recyclers and charities.
In response Moon said WRAP has been researching UK textile arisings, available markets and technical opportunities for recycling across the world. The analysis looks at different rag and fibre markets across the world. The findings are due out in Spring 2014.
Moon said the framework of SCAP 2020 is to get “a vision of what can be achieved for the good of the industry”.
This could result in stronger markets for rag and fibre and help develop closed loop recycling.
He added that this could help counter price fluctuations by broadening the market opportunities for UK textile recyclers.
He said: “Ideally we should move to fibre-to-fibre recycling to close the loop.”
The biggest challenge for clothing retailers in reducing total waste arising across whole product lifecycle is around increasing the active life of clothing and helping consumers get longer-lasting value from their clothes.
Moon said this goes against current fashion trends where clothes being worn for shorter periods of time.
WRAP identified three key action areas:
- the use of lower impact fibres
- extending the active life of clothes
- increasing re-use and recycling
To date 29 signatories and 24 supporters of SCAP have signed up, including 12 retailers and 15 charities, recyclers and collectors.
If the SCAP targets are met, waste arisings will reduce by 16,000 tonnes.
WRAP Chief Executive Liz Goodwin said: “SCAP has excellent industry buy-in with signatories representing 40% of UK clothing sales and many leading charities and recyclers on board. By agreeing to these stretching targets they are demonstrating their commitment to reducing the environmental footprint of the sector”.
Retailers offering a re-sale section for pre-owned own-brand garments within their store:
David Moon said: “A fashion retailer offers an incentive for their customers to return their used garments (bought from that retailer) to a store. The garments are then sent to a central warehouse for sorting, cleaning and re-styling and distributed back to stores carrying the ‘pre-owned’ collection.
“This provides the quickest payback period under both conservative and tipping point scenarios and is one of the most commercially viable models over the long and short term.
“The success of this model is largely down to the fact that it works in the existing retail format and therefore offers a low cost base and rapidly generates profits. It is also one of the most effective at generating waste savings over the long term in both scenarios.”