UK textile sorters that outsourced their operations to Eastern Europe in order to reduce costs have begun to transfer back to the UK to sort, according to industry experts.
MRW understands that several textile recyclers that have previously sorted in countries such as Poland to take advantage of reduced operating costs are now returning to the UK because operational costs in Eastern Europe are no longer beneficially low for the companies.
TRA national liaison manager Alan Wheeler said: “We support traditional sorting of clothing and textiles in the UK as it creates and supports jobs in this country. Some of our members run sorting operations overseas as part of combined operations with their UK sorting operations. Some of these companies have recentlyclosed their overseas branches due to substantial increased operating costs and a reduction in tax advantages and subsidies. As a result they have expanded their UK operations.”
There is also now more of an incentive to thoroughly sort textiles to get the best quality and therefore best price for them. Wheeler explained: “While the value of UK used clothing remains firm, the value of recycling grades still remains very low. However, the rising commodity prices for new cotton and acrylic fibres are encouraging producers of textile based products to look for lower value recycling grades to mix in with their virgin fibres, which in turn is pushing up demand for some recycled fibres and encouraging sorting.”
UK recyclers using overseas sorting operations had been a concern for those who kept sorting operations in the UK and believed the reduced overseas operating costs created an unfair market.
Textile recycler JMP Wilcox director Martin Wilcox commented: “There is more sorting in the UK of different volumes. I do know of two or three textile sorters that are bringing their operations back to our shores. When you sort overseas you can’t keep the same consistency of quality, so when you lose quality, you lose profitability, so this may be what we’re seeing now with the return of sorting operations to the UK.”
He added that another reason may be that local authorities are now keen to know exactly where the textiles go and therefore look for companies that can provide an audit trail.