Testing times In textile recycling

During the last year, six recyclers of textiles have ceased trading, according to the Textile Recycling Association – and theft is one of the reasons behind this decline.

The trade body now comprises 53 clothing collectors, sorters and reprocessors, having lost a tenth of its membership. The six companies no longer operating were UK-based, and included businesses in the Midlands and Yorkshire. The association’s Director, Alan Wheeler, fears that the situation may worsen. At a recent meeting, he said:

“Throughout 2012 we were receiving anecdotal reports that some of our members could not afford to continue paying the prevailing market prices and were eating into their capital reserves.

“As a consequence, in January we became aware of six established UK based textile collectors ceasing trading. In the last year or so we have lost over 10% of our membership this way and I suspect that there are more to come.”

Prices have dropped within the industry since the bankruptcies, but crime also features in the decline of textiles recyclers; criminal gangs target used clothing to steal.

Nevertheless, the textiles recycling industry is committed to sustainability, and will ensure that it reduces its waste, emissions, and its water use, by 2020. This will involve ensuring textiles are diverted from landfill by reusing and recycling more old clothes.

At Recycling Lives, we are sorry to learn about fellow recycling industry organisations ceasing operations. Job losses and reduced capacity are the immediate consequences of such situations, and the results are hardship for individuals and families, and an increased amount of waste in the system – which has to go somewhere.

We hope that the trade body will step up to advise and support its remaining members, to help them make sure the same fate does not befall them. We are sure that they will, and, with the industry’s commitment to improving reuse and recycling rates, it will be more likely that they continue to thrive.

Textile crime, of course, also needs to be tackled. Like scrap metal theft, it causes honest people to lose out and criminals to gain. We hope that the trade body and the police are able to combat it.

We will be keeping track of the situation in the textile recycling industry, and will continue to report any developments as they occur.