Shortening the supply chain from residents to recyclers is essential to preserving quality, minimising contamination and extracting the maximum value from the hundreds of thousands of household textiles discarded in the UK every year.
Latest figures show that 350,000 tonnes of clothing are being sent to landfill in the UK each year, with a further 70,000 tonnes destined for incineration.
Co-hosted by Manchester-based textile recycler I&G Cohen ltd and resource recovery specialist Axion Consulting, the What a Waste! Event at the city’s Museum of Science and Industry in November attracted more than 70 delegates from the local authority and waste management sectors. Feedback from attendees was very positive.
In exploring innovative ways of diverting used clothing and textiles from landfill and generating new income sources, the one-day seminar and exhibition also emphasised the significant resource value of discarded textiles and the benefits of re-use over recycling them, particularly for global export markets.
As I&G Cohen ltd Managing Director Elliot Cohen pointed out: “Given that two-fifths of the world’s population will never be able to afford to buy good quality clothing, these end markets offer tremendous opportunities. Used clothing and textiles are a resource, not a waste, that can bring in valuable revenue for councils.”
In his presentation on Feedstock Sources and Values, I&G Cohen ltd Director Phil Geller reported on results from WRAP-funded trials, conducted by I&G Cohen ltd and Axion, which showed that 81-89% of collected clothing is reusable with little variation between established and popular collection routes, such as textile banks, door-to-door and kerbside collections.
“Separation at source and sorting clothing as soon as possible after collection is key to maximising value and the amount that can subsequently be reused. Keeping it clean, dry and free from contamination is vital,” said Phil Geller.
Enabling householders to recycle their unwanted textiles along with their everyday recyclables is proving a success for Suffolk Waste Partnership, a strategic partnership of seven district councils and the county council. Every year, 7,000 tonnes of textiles in residual waste end up in Suffolk landfill sites.
SWP Support Manager Rob Cole presented a case study to show how their cost-neutral, county-wide scheme, funded by the SWP’s in-house Resource Efficiency Fund, had already collected 350 tonnes since its introduction in July 2012 with no evidence to date of any adverse effect on the county’s existing methods of textiles collections, such as bring sites and charities.
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