Four out of five donated textile items can be recycled or re-used, according to a WRAP study.
Eight trials were carried out in Manchester by recycling firm I & G Cohen and resource recovery specialist Axion Consulting on the quality and value of recycled and re-used textiles collected via different routes. These included textiles donated via established routes such as door to door, kerbside, textile bank and charity shop collections.
The study, part of WRAP’s project: Impact of Textile Feedstock Source on Value, concluded that between 80 per cent and 89 per cent could be recycled or re-used, dependent on the collection method. Comingled collections were least successful due to heavy contamination and damage from the sorting process.
An evaluation of textile value in re-use and recycling markets was also carried, based on a textile recycler obtaining unsorted textiles from each source and sorting the material in-house.
It showed that textile bank collections had the highest potential revenue, followed by recycling police uniforms. Comingled kerbside collections represented a cost rather than an income stream, according to the study.
I&G Cohen managing director Elliot Cohen said the results showed the potential to capture more clothing and household textile items and divert more textiles from landfill.
“Textiles are a resource and not a waste, so it’s vital that the public should continue to donate their unwanted items,” he said. “Equally, local authorities and waste management companies can benefit by partnering with a reliable full service supplier who can help them maximise revenue from their textiles.”
In a separate project for WRAP, the companies studied the economic and environmental impacts of washing and drying contaminated textiles for re-use and recycling.
They concluded that while it was possible to recover up to 75% of clothing from landfill for re-use, it was not economically viable, as the cost of laundering equipment outweighed added value from cleaning the textiles.