Trials show established textile collection routes give best re-use value
Published by Kathy Wilkinson for I & G Cohen in Local Government and also in Central Government, Communities, Environment
Sorting clothes at I & G Cohen
Recent trials undertaken by two Manchester-based recycling companies have shown that more than four out of five textile items donated via established routes such as door to door, kerbside, textile bank and charity shop collections can be successfully re-used or recycled.
Eight studies conducted by textile recycler I & G Cohen Ltd and resource recovery specialist Axion Consulting on behalf of WRAP (Waste & Resources Action programme) revealed an even response with re-use and recycling rates of 80% to 89% using these routes, which are popular with consumers.
Comingled collections were least successful due to heavy contamination and damage from the sorting process causing high levels of wastage.
The project, entitled ‘Impact of Textile Feedstock Source on Value’, assessed the impact that differing sources of recovered textiles has on the quality and subsequent value of those textiles within the UK re-use and recycling markets.
Commenting on the publication, Elliot Cohen, Managing Director of Salford-based I & G Cohen, said: “These results show there is great potential to capture more clothing and household textile items that will divert more of the one million-plus tonnes of these items that go to landfill each year in the UK – benefiting the environment and conserving resources.”
“It is very encouraging to see that over 80% of clothing is re-usable. Textiles are a resource and not a waste, so it’s vital that the public should continue to donate their unwanted items. Equally, local authorities and waste management companies can benefit by partnering with a reliable full service supplier who can help them maximise revenue from their textiles.”
Elliot pointed out such partnerships can bring in useful extra income streams: “Our textile bank collection services for one local authority raised over £90k in the first year; money that can be ploughed back into council services. This highlights what a resource recycling unwanted textiles can be for the local economy as well as being good for the environment. It’s a win-win all round!”
In a second separate project as part of WRAP’s overall textile research, I & G Cohen and Axion investigated the economic and environmental impacts of washing and drying contaminated textiles for re-use and recycling markets. Conclusions from the four trials showed that while it was possible to recover up to 75% of clothing from landfill for re-use, it was not economically viable.
“In our view, while in some cases laundering could add value, the £700k equipment cost does not warrant the investment. Collecting textiles via ‘cleaner’ routes is far better to maximise recycling and re-use opportunities,” added Elliot.
I & G Cohen has been at the forefront of textile recycling since 1959, providing a comprehensive range of nationwide textile collection and recycling services for the waste management sector, local authorities and charities, including kerbside collections and textile bank collections. The company also acts as an end market for used clothing and discarded household textiles, offering bespoke products to Eastern Europe as well as Africa and Asia.