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Textiles recycling ‘on a knife edge’ says TRA

The viability of textile collections under current market conditions is on a knife edge and the UK may need to follow policy in other countries, according to the Textile Recycling Association.

Director Alan Wheeler has warned in an exclusive report for MRW of the danger of “severe market failure” across the used clothing and textile recycling sector.

He says that values for used clothing grades are continuing to decline, with charity shop quality garments at half the price they were three years ago.

As profit margins are squeezed, he warns, contractors are withdrawing collection areas and restricting the types of materials they take, leaving fewer outlets for lower quality textiles. While competition was once fierce, there is now usually only a single operator in each area, he adds.

Wheeler said: “If a charity or local authority is getting 25p per kilo from their textile bank partner, they are doing very well.

“In the past because of the relatively high value of used clothing, collectors have been able to offset some of the profits generated by these grades to collect lower grade textiles for recycling which generate little or no profit.

“However, as profit margins are continuing to be squeezed, collectors are not only retracting their collection areas but also restricting the range of materials that they collect.”

A threatened import ban into countries that make up the East African Community could make matters worse because they are an important export market for the UK.

While C&A and H&M have invested in research into textile recycling, France has a legally binding extended producer responsibility levy. Wheeler says the finance generated through this scheme has enabled collection rates to shoot up and has supported 18 new research projects.

  • More in the next issue of MRW

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