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Joint effort urged on clothes recycling

Waste minister Lord Taylor has urged collaboration between local authorities and charities to help cut the amount of clothing sent to landfill, as the two sectors bid to resolve their row about textile bring banks.

Taylor told MRW that councils should decide their own arrangements for operating textile recycling services in their areas, but underlined the role of charities.  

“It is a matter for local authorities to decide how to handle it, but charities should always seek to maintain a dialogue with them,” he said.

“Charities have an important part to play. They have been doing textile recycling for a long time and are good at what they do. They are not for profit, but they may have to be more entrepreneurial about it.

“The most important thing is to realise that there is such a large amount of clothing in the system - 350,000 tonnes is going to landfill - and it is important to get the value from that and the businesses opportunities.”

Taylor was speaking at the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan annual conference, where WRAP launched its Valuing Our Clothes report.

The report said around £140m could be generated if all clothing sent to landfill was given instead to charities, local authorities or other organisations for recycling or reuse

WRAP also calculated that UK consumers own around £30bn-worth of clothes which they have not worn for a year.

Charities raised concerns in May that they stood to lose millions of pounds if plans for a London-wide switch to commercial operators for the sale of textiles collected from bring banks on council-owned sites went ahead.

The London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) and the Charity Retail Association (CRA) have been locked in negotiations since.

LWARB member Clyde Loakes said the plans had also sparked “heated debate” among council leaders.

The CRA and LWARB told MRW this week that discussions were “positive” but nothing was finalised.

Other key findings from WRAP’s study Valuing Our Clothes, include:

  • Increasing the active use of clothing by an extra nine months could reduce the water, carbon and waste impacts by up to 20-30% each and save £5bn.
  • The recently-launched M&S & Oxfam Shwopping initiative provided clear evidence of retailer awareness and customer interest in new approaches.
  • Nearly half of adults put clothes in the bin
  • Every year, 1.13 million tonnes of end-of-life clothing are no longer wanted by UK consumers

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