Research carried out by the Textile Recycling Association (TRA) has estimated 10% of goods are stolen from textile banks, while only around 2% of used clothing is stolen from door-to-door collections.
It is the first time an accurate figure has been pinpointed for textile thefts. Previously it was thought that up to 15% of all used clothing and textile donations were stolen, costing charities an estimated £50m a year.
The research, which examined four London boroughs, was funded by London Waste And Recycling Board and was carried out by the TRA, LRS Consultancy, LM Barry and Co, and Clothes Aid.
It also found no evidence that bogus charity collectors had attempted to con householders during a research period covering May this year.
In addition, the number of thefts reported to the police within the M25 has gone down from 110 in 2011 to only 14 so far in 2014.
Recyclers said a fall in market prices for textiles combined with more “proactive policing” of textile banks had led to a reduction in crime.
TRA director Alan Wheeler said: “Many industry stakeholders have reported a decline in illegal collections and feel that this is at least in part due to the market decline, so the current difficult conditions may have provided a silver lining.”
Clothes Aid spokesman Michael Lomotey said: “We believe the decrease in doorstep collection thefts can be attributed to the rise of proactive policing on these types of crimes. We are working closely with the police providing information on thefts across the country, and have found that local forces are becoming more and more diligent at prosecuting the ring leaders.”
Ross Barry, managing director of textile recyclers LM Barry, said: “In the last year we’ve seen a definite reduction in theft and that’s partly as a result of introducing stronger banks and improved chute designs which have stopped people either climbing in or cutting the bank open.
“But 10% still represents a reasonably high percentage, so using the recommendations from this research, we’ll keep improving bank designs to cut down on theft – while making sure they remain easy for the public to use.”
Market prices for textiles has continued a downward path during 2014. MRW figures show the average price per tonne has dropped from £420 in February to £310 in October.
In October last year the figure stood at £425.