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Challenging times for textiles

At a time when MRW has been marking its own 100th year, it was fascinating on Tuesday to share in an event to mark the centenary of the Textile Recycling Association (TRA).

A reception at the Palace of Westminster was hosted by MP Tracey Crouch, who said her own enlightenment over the economic role played by textile recyclers came when a constituent complained about a door-to-door collector - she said it opened her eyes to an important industry of which she had previously known nothing.

The TRA has had some difficult times and the current market state is not bright. But 10 years after facing insolvency, the organisation seems in rude enough health under the stewardship of director Alan Wheeler.

A significant birthday encourages a look forward as much as back. Forty years ago, one TRA member said the main overseas market for its products was Bangladesh: now not one kilo goes there. Key targets are Africa and eastern Europe - but for how long? The domestic market is also changing, with more retailers introducing take-back schemes, such as Marks & Spencer’s Schwopping initiative with Oxfam.

TRA members rail at the growth in thefts from clothing banks and dubious door-to-door collectors. It has prompted some to suggest a licensing scheme akin to the new regime for scrap metal dealers. There is widespread public uncertainty over what happens to donated materials and anything to improve the situation should be considered. It is a challenging future, but may the TRA have another successful 100 years.

Finally, I want to draw your attention to our new Big Questionsection, which considers the thorny issue of commingling. We are keen to continue the discussion - so do join the LinkedIn MRW group and have your say.

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