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Unlock value of all textile waste, WRAP report urges

Recycling infrastructure should be used to unlock the value of all textile waste, not just clothes, according to a new report from WRAP.

The Textiles flow and market development opportunities in the UK study, to be launched at the RWM exhibition in Birmingham, highlights the potential value in household textile waste.

It emphasises the opportunities to increase mattress recovery, and rag and fibre recycling from discarded carpets, and examines new recycling and potential market opportunities.

The report also reveals that people are throwing out almost one million tonnes of textiles, mainly clothes, shoes and linens like bedding and curtains, every year. 

These unwanted items, which currently end up in landfill, could be re-used or recycled and generate millions of pounds, according to WRAP.

WRAP director Marcus Gover said that an estimated £238m of textiles was thrown out for waste collection and sent to landfill.

He said: “We know that there’s both infrastructure and reprocessing capacity out there, so there’s a challenge here to make sure people are aware, not only of the implications of sending textiles to landfill, but also of the different collection opportunities available for all unwanted textiles, and not just clothes.”

“Carpet recycling is growing fast from a very low starting point, and there are already a number of innovative methods and end markets for the recycled material, but further development of these is needed to ensure recycling is commercially viable.”

He added that although mattress recovery was more difficult, the rising market price of steel made it an area of growing interest and value.

“Some mattresses contain as much as 50% steel,” said Gover. “In 2010, an estimated 84,500 tonnes of steel alone could have been recovered.”

WRAP is also launching three other related reports as part of its work on textiles. These look at commercial sources of clothing for re-use and recycling.

The Branded Workwear Report says that only 10% of work clothing is recycled or re-used and suggests steps to reduce waste.

Impact of Textile Feedstock Source on Value assesses the impact that different sources of recovered textiles have on quality and value in the UK re-use and recycling markets.

The Textiles Washing and Drying Trials report investigates the economic and environmental impacts of washing and drying contaminated textiles for re-use and recycling markets.

WRAP is also launching new guidance to help local authorities and textiles collectors increase re-use and recycling, and reduce the amount of textiles being disposed of in residual waste.

It includes good practice examples for kerbside textile collection services, bring banks, and community re-use initiatives, and advice on communicating recycling to the public.

WRAP is planning to look in detail at the commercial viability of existing recycling technologies including the global rag and fibre market to identify ways of growing existing and developing new markets.

The WRAP reports can be accessed via the WRAP website.

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