In our fast fashion society what happens to our clothes when we no longer want them. Once discarded they either end up in landfill or in charity shops. Recycling textile is extremely important part of Eco Fashion as textile waste is estimated at more than 1 million tonnes a year. At least 50% of the textiles we throw away are recyclable, however, the proportion of textile wastes reused or recycled annually in the UK is only around 25%. (Source: www.wasteonline.org.uk)
But what happens once garnments hit the clothes banks? While over 70% of the world population use second hand clothes, only a small fraction are resold in Charity shops.
Recyclatex, a scheme run by the Textile Recycling Association in conjunction with local authorities and charities, provides textile banks for public use. Once clothes have been sorted the better quality ones are sent to developing countries to be sold in local markets. The rest of the waste is used for upholstery or turned into wiping rags while the low quality fabrics are sent to landfills.
The Salvation Army, Scope, and Oxfam also use a bank scheme in conjunction with other methods. Scope, for example, runs a national door-to-door textile collection service. There are about 3,000 textile banks nationwide, but clothes banks are only operating at about 25% capacity.
The Salvation Army is the largest operator of textile banks in the UK, with over 2,000 banks nationwide. On average, each of these banks is estimated to collect about six tonnes of textiles per year. Combined with door-to-door collections, The Salvation Army’s textile recycling operations account for the processing of in excess of 17,000 tonnes of clothing a year. Clothes are given to the homeless, sold in charity shops or sold in developing countries in Africa, the Indian sub-continent and parts of Eastern Europe. Nearly 70% of items put into clothing banks are reused as clothes, and any un-wearable items are sold to merchants to be recycled and used as factory wiping cloths.
Unsold and un-wearable clothing is sent to Oxfam’s Wastesaver, a textile recycling plant in Huddersfield. These clothes are sold as raw materials to the textile recycling industry. Wastesaver handles about 100 tonnes a week.
TRAID (Textile Recycling for Aid and International Development) runs a parallel scheme. TRAID operates over 900 textile recycling banks across the UK. Clothing donated to TRAID recycling banks is transported to TRAID’s central warehouse and sorted by hand according to quality and style. The clothing is then sold back to the public in one of TRAID’s charity shops. In 2001, TRAIDremade was born when TRAID staff recognised the waste created by damaged clothing donated to TRAID. Instead of sending these pieces to landfill, TRAID decided to customise the clothing into new one-off items and sell them under a recycled fashion label. The money that is raised by TRAID through this operation is used to expand TRAID’s recycling activities, fund assemblies and workshops in London schools and donated to overseas development projects.
Visit our Eco Fashion pages for more inspiration