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WRAP trials to help the UK textile recycling sector
Sep '12
New research from Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) suggests it’s time to unlock the potential economic value of discarded textiles thrown out by consumers for waste collection.

The new report reveals that consumers are throwing out almost one million tonnes of textiles, mainly clothes, shoes and linens like bedding and curtains, every year.  But these unwanted items, which currently end up in landfill, could be re-used or recycled – and generate millions of pounds.

“In 2010, we threw out an estimated £238m-worth of textiles for waste collection and sent to landfill, yet all of this could have been re-used, recycled or sent for energy recovery,” said WRAP director Marcus Gover.
“If we were to recover just 10% of that household textile waste, we could potentially unlock revenues of around £24m. If we were to increase this figure to match what has already been achieved in recycling and re-use of other household waste materials, this amount could be even higher.
“It’s true that we do recycle and re-use a lot more of our unwanted textile items now than in the past, but this mainly comprises clothing, and our latest research shows how much more there is still to be done.
“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.”
Textiles flow and market development opportunities in the UK is a comprehensive study of textiles flows in the UK. As well as highlighting the potential value in household textile waste, it also emphasises the opportunities to increase mattress recovery, and rag and fibre recycling from discarded carpets, and examines both new recycling and potential market opportunities.
“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,” said Marcus.
“Mattress recovery is more difficult, but with the market price of steel steadily rising, it’s an area of growing interest and value – some mattresses contain as much as 50% steel. 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 cover commercial sources of clothing for re-use and recycling, as well as household.

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