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Defra: Commingled collection systems may stunt textile recycling

Commingled collections could stunt the increase of textile reuse or recycling if not controlled, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs believes.

In its report Maximising Reuse and Recycling of UK Clothing and Textiles, Defra says the rise in the use of commingled collection systems are a threat to the growth of the textiles recycling industry.

This is because textiles can cause problems with materials recycling facility sorting and a need for the textiles to be separately bagged at the collection stage in order to avoid becoming damp or contaminated, destroying the quality and therefore value of the material.

However, collection figures showed that the overall reuse and recycling rate has increased by 10 per cent over the past five years, jumping from 324,000 tonnes in 2003 up to 523,000 tonnes in 2008. Furthermore, the volume of textiles discarded as municipal waste has decreased from 1.165M tonnes to 1.091M tonnes, revealing an overall recycling increase to 33 per cent in 2008, from 22 per cent in 2003.

Textile Recycling Association national liaison manager Alan Wheeler said: Although collection rates have improved significantly, we are still throwing away over one million tonnes of clothing textiles annually, of which nearly two-thirds has a re-use and recycling value. From an economic and environmental point of view this is a terrible shame.

Overall consumption of textiles stands at 2.266M tonnes each year, therefore -  taking into account the amount of clothing reused (206,000 tonnes) -  the tonnage of textiles disposed of annually is 2.60M.

In the UK, there are around 18,500 charity shops and textile banks in the UK and the availability of kerbside collection of used textiles has almost doubled since 2002 to over 30 per cent. Defra points out that the bring system is constantly growing but in order to achieve higher reuse and recycling rates, the number of household collection schemes should be increased as kerbside collections are only half that for glass, plastics and metals.

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