A battered UK textiles recovery industry faces further damage following the scrapping of import restrictions on clothing, representatives have claimed.
Textiles Recycling Association (TRA) national liaison manager Alan Wheeler told members he would fight for financial assistance in the face of the new threat.
In January, the World Trade Organisation removed 210 EU limits on the amount of clothes that could be brought from countries including China, Taiwan and India.
Wheeler said this would mean lower quality clothing coming into the UK - leaving textiles merchants with higher recycling costs and less valuable products.
So at this week's TRA annual general meeting in Birmingham he pledged to make a renewed plea for funding from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
Wheeler said: "We have been told in the past that WRAP does not fund textile recycling initiatives as there is no market failure in our sector.
"However, import restrictions of new clothing into Europe from less developed countries were lifted by the World Trade Organisation on January 1 this year.
"We are therefore likely to see even more poor quality clothing being sent for recycling in the future, and this equates to a significant change in the status quo since WRAP communicated their message.
"They say there is no market failure but this will arise when these lower quality clothes are disposed of - there will be less suitable for re-use, and more needed to be recycled.
"A few years ago, it was estimated that around 60% of waste clothes were suitable for reuse, which funded the 40% that were recycled or disposed of.
"Now it is more like 40% can be reused, and this could fall further following the lifting of import restrictions.
"We hope to talk to WRAP for support; we will try to get funding to help."
TRA president Terry Ralph told members at the AGM that the industry was already in a fragile state.
He said: "Last year was fraught with anxieties concerning failing markets and currency fluctuations.
"We are selling our second-hand clothing at 1995 prices and our recyclables at prices below those achievable in 1985 - but our overheads are at 2005 levels."