New research highlights sorry state of textiles recycling

Less than one-third of textiles thrown away each year in the UK are recovered for reuse or recycling, according to latest research.

Materials from just 25,000 tonnes of mattresses are recovered every year from a total of 169,000 tonnes

Materials from just 25,000 tonnes of mattresses are recovered every year from a total of 169,000 tonnes

New studies released by WRAP suggest that if just 10% of 'black bag' textiles waste was recovered, it could unlock £23.8m in revenue.

Some 1.4 tonnes of textiles including clothes, shoes, bedding and curtains end up in landfill each year - this includes 370,000 tonnes of carpet despite the fact that carpet recycling is one of the fastest growing recovery streams.

Mattresses also present a significant problem - just 25,000 of the 169,000 tonnes consumed every year is recovered, despite them containing valuable metals like steel.

According to WRAP director Marcus Gover, in 2010 an estimated 84,500 tonnes of steel alone could have been recovered from used mattresses.

"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," he said.

On the back of these findings, WRAP has published new guidance to help local authorities and textiles collectors increase reuse and recycling ratesm and reduce the amount of textiles being disposed of in residual waste.

"What our research demonstrates is that there are real opportunities here for organisations and individuals to reduce our carbon footprint by diverting textiles from landfill and extracting the maximum financial end economic benefits available from smarter reuse and recycling," said Gover.

WRAP also intends to scrutinise the types of recycling technologies that exist for textiles recovery and their commercial viability.

This includes researching the global rag and fibre market with a view to identifying ways of growing existing and developing new markets for materials.

Maxine Perella


Reuse | metals recycling | textiles recycling


Waste & resource management
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