The unscrupulous nature of some of those operating textile collection and recycling services will come as no surprise to many. More worrying, however, is the increasing frequency and ferocity with which these organisations are targeting the industry.
Collection scams, profiteering and misrepresentation are just three of the charges that can be levelled at some of the organisations currently operating textile schemes in the UK.
And, while these outfits continue to tarnish the reputation of those who have built law-abiding businesses, the industry appears to acknowledge the problem while doing little to rectify it.
According to the Textile Recycling Association (TRA) these rogue traders are a very real problem and one that anyone with an interest in this sector should be at pains to avoid.
TRA national liaison manager Alan Wheeler said: We do not, at the moment, have a definitive list of dubious textile recyclers, but we have noticed an increase in what we would consider unscrupulous activities.
The association advises a cautious approach to new recycling activities. If there is any doubt about the nature of a business we would suggest that people contact us to verify the situation, Wheeler added.
Although the TRA is warning about bogus operators, the commercial sector and the public often remain unaware. Retailers sites are often used for textile-recycling bins, while the public provide the feedstock on which the industry is based. Should they discover the truth behind some of these self-proclaimed good works their support may understandably be called into question.
Textile recycling householders can hardly be expected to surf the internet to check out a recyclers credentials before depositing their old clothes. And yet, with some, they might not like what they find.
Other players feel there is a problem, though few are willing to openly discuss it. Salvation Army recycling manager Garth Ward said he could cite countless incidents where recycling banks have turned up in places where they are not wanted.
He said the problem was twofold. The banks were often deposited without permission and because they appeared to be worthy, landowners were unaware that they were not charitable concerns. At the same time, clothes deposited in these banks detract from diversion statistics.
But Ward believed the problem was bigger than just recycling banks. You have to look at the whole issue of unlicensed traders. We have had instances where empty Salvation Army bags have been stolen from the doorstep and redelivered in another area for collection by a bogus operation. In other cases they have collected the filled bags in advance of our collection and clothes are then sold on for profit.
We have involved the police but so far little has happened. I would estimate that rackets like this are costing viable recycling routes millions.
Textiles recycling, it seems, has a long way to go to clean up its act. Perhaps the time has come to set these particular wheels in motion, before its too late. u
Do you believe that bogus doorstep collectors or dubious textiles banks are on the increase, or has your business been hit by unscrupulous organisations? Write to MRW and give us your opinions.