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France's proposed eco-levy on apparels creates controversy
Jun '08
The controversial issue of France's proposed eco-levy on new clothes and shoes once again provided the focus for the meeting of the BIR Textiles Division.

Guest speaker Bertrand Paillat, Director General of the French Chamber of Commerce, stressed in Monte-Carlo that the aim of this initiative was to more than double 2005 sorting volumes to 130 000 tonnes by the year 2011 - but without creating “unfair competition”.

Levy money would also be used to support research into, for example, the best outlets for the sorted textiles.

The decree on the eco-tax was anticipated for mid-June this year while initial contributions from organisations responsible for putting new clothes and shoes on the market were expected towards the end of 2008, according to Mr Paillat.

At this point, however, there is still considerable concern among some textile recyclers that the new levy will disrupt the textiles recycling market to the disadvantage of established commercial enterprises.

In a review of market conditions, BIR Textiles Division President Olaf Rintsch of Textil Recycling K&A Wenkhaus GmbH in Germany noted that 20% price increases for originals had been “wiped out” by higher fuel and buying-in costs.

At the same time, sales of used clothing into Africa and Pakistan had been adversely affected by a reduction in customers' purchasing power and by their greater selectivity.

Honorary President Klaus Löwer of Hans Löwer Recycling GmbH in Germany later lamented: “Energy and transport cost increases cannot be passed on.”

Terry Ralph of the Textile Recycling Association in the UK acknowledged the organisation's continuing work with the Campaign for Real Recycling which aims to support source-segregated over co-mingled collections.

He insisted: “Any textiles collected along with other wastes in the same container cannot be effectively recycled.”

An emerging initiative in the Netherlands was outlined by Hans Brak of Vereniging Herwinning Textiel: the Jeans for Jeans - or J4J - project focuses on the “cradle-to-cradle” concept of turning post-consumer clothing into new clothes.

Members had discovered that the production of jeans and other clothing from 100% recycled textiles led to energy savings of 53%, as well as to a reduction in water and chemical consumption of, respectively, 99% and 88%, he said.

The other guest speaker at the BIR Textiles Division meeting in Monte-Carlo was Dr Andreas Jaron from the German Ministry of the Environment.

Having emphasised the importance of environmentally sound management and the closing of global material cycles, he added: “We need to find a quick and easy way to define end-of-waste for textiles.”

BIR's Environmental & Technical Director Ross Bartley pointed out that textiles appeared on the “indicative list” of recyclables to be considered at EU level in the context of when a waste ceases to be a waste.

According to the division's General Delegate Alexander Gläser of Fachverband Textil-Recycling eV, collected used clothing should not be considered as a waste because the public placed items in special containers in the full knowledge that this act represented “a donation” and would “benefit someone”.

If people were indifferent to the destination of their used clothing, they would consign it to the refuse bin rather than take it to a collection point, he argued.

Bureau of International Recycling

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